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The Cypress House    by Michael Koryta order for
Cypress House
by Michael Koryta
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

The Cypress House is a unique blend of horror, suspense, and historical fiction. Michael Kortya sets the mood early and it stays throughout the whole novel, making it one compelling read.

World War I veteran Arlen Wagner has a unique ability - he can see if someone is about to die. When he notices the whole train of CCC works heading down to the Florida Keys has become skeletons or men with smoke in their eyes, he tries to get the men off the train. The only one who listens is a young man, Paul Brickhill, who accompanies Arlen to the nearest inn.

While on the road, they are picked up by Walt Sorenson, a former bootlegger who lets them accompany him the next day as he makes his rounds to various bars and inns, doing work that Arlen cannot understand. Arlen and Paul only go into one establishment with him, The Cypress House, run by a woman named Rebecca Cady. It is here that Walt meets with an untimely end and Arlen and Paul find out that once you enter Corridor County, it is impossible to leave. There is more going on in this sleepy backwoods swamp, and Arlen is determined to figure out what, especially after he sees death in Paul's eyes.

The Cypress House has a unique premise, but what really showcases Koryta's talent is the mood that is established immediately and that does not let up until the last chapter. The whole story is permeated with a sense of despair, much as I imagine people felt during the Great Depression. Koryta has expertly captured this essence on paper and it makes The Cypress House the type of book the reader dreads picking back up - you can almost taste that the next twist will be even worse than the preceding one but feel to compelled to finish for the suspenseful plot.

The Cypress House works well as all three genres - horror, suspense, and historical fiction. Though it's difficult to classify as either, fans of any combination of the three should pick up Michael Koryta's latest.

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