Eau de French Lick

So Cold the RiverA review of So Cold The River by Michael Koryta

Did you know that French Lick, Indiana is famous for not only producing NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird, but also for its mineral springs and spas that dot the area? Well, if you read Michael Koryta's new book you would. It's all about the magical properties in the natural spring water of nearby West Baden. Pluto water, a bottle of which presented to failed filmmaker, Eric Shaw,  in hopes of aiding ultimately in the revival of his film career, had been touted as a cure-all in the early 20th century, only to be later relegated as a laxative at best. Shaw is hired for 20K by millionairess Alyssa Bradford to create a documentary of sorts, a tribute to her father in-law, Campbell Bradford, who hails from West Baden; all as a surprise for her husband's family.

Eric, recently returned to Chicago from the big-time in LA and estranged from his wife, packs up his camera and heads to Indiana for a two week all expense paid visit to scout the area and research his new doc project. This is where Koryta's tale takes flight, though it never really attains cruising altitude. The novel, not for lack of trying, never really breaks out of the standard thriller mold. There are the usual good guys, bad guys, and love interest. But even when Koryta throws a bit of the otherworldly and horrendously bad weather into the mix, it's still not quite enough to rescue this story from mediocrity.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this book, it has some truly harrowing moments, the author is notably a veteran of suspense, but I found myself not caring enough for the protagonists. Eric Shaw, is passably solid, but his fast buddy Kellen, and his estranged wife Claire are not fully fleshed out. Kellen is simply a stock supporting character and Claire is actually a bit pathetic as the faithful spouse willing to be bullied by the tortured artist. Koryta's antagonists, a bit stronger on the page, still introduce no more than a ghostly presence, which might be what the author is going for, but not what his readers want.

So Cold The River is a tale that, like its catalyst, Pluto water, requires a lot of magic for it to work to its full potential; In the book, the water needs to be ice cold for it be effective, but for me it's just luke warm.

~Book Jones~ 3 stars