Books by State: Indiana

Last Words by Michael Koryta

“Markus Novak just wants to come home. An investigator for a Florida-based Death Row defense firm, Novak’s life derailed when his wife, Lauren, was killed in the midst of a case the two were working together. Two years later, her murderer is still at large, and Novak’s attempts to learn the truth about her death through less-than-legal means and jailhouse bargaining have put his job on the line. Now he’s been all but banished, sent to Garrison, Indiana to assess a cold case that he’s certain his boss has no intention of taking.

As Novak knows all too well, some crimes never do get solved. But it’s not often that the man who many believe got away with murder is the one calling for the case to be reopened. Ten years ago, a teenaged girl disappeared inside an elaborate cave system beneath rural farmland. Days later, Ridley Barnes emerged carrying Sarah Martin’s lifeless body. Barnes has claimed all along that he has no memory of exactly where — or how — he found Sarah. His memory of whether she was dead or alive at the time is equally foggy. Tired of living under a cloud of suspicion, he says he wants answers — even if they mean he’ll end up in the electric chair.

But what’s he really up to? And Novak knows why he’s so unhappy to be in Garrison — but why are the locals so hostile towards him? The answers lie in the fiendish brain of a dangerous man, the real identity of a mysterious woman, and deep beneath them all, in the network of ancient, stony passages that hold secrets deadlier than he can imagine. Soon Novak is made painfully aware that if he has any chance of returning to the life and career he left behind in Florida, he’ll need to find the truth in Garrison first.” – Amazon’s Summary

This is the first book of Michael Koryta’s that I’ve read, and I certainly plan on reading his work again. The story had excellent pacing and kept me engaged as I read. Although I will say, this may have been the first time it’s taken me a long time to warm up to the main character. I just really didn’t like Novak for a good chunk at the start of the book. To be fair, I’m not so sure he liked himself either.

Novak had his own problems going on before he arrived in Garrison, so it took him a while before he could set those aside and focus on the drama in Garrison. Sarah’s disappearance and death in the cave and Ridley’s questionable connection to it is an intriguing mystery. I was wondering if it was going to take a supernatural turn, but that wasn’t the case. The conclusion of the mystery is perhaps somewhat anti-climactic, but I still found it a satisfying ending. You could argue that makes it more life-like; not every case ends with a bang. Honestly, the story would work either way – the ending it has or even a supernatural ending, it could have gone either way I think. But, for the sake of Novak, the regular ending certainly is preferable. Novak had to push the boundaries of comfort zone and his beliefs pretty far throughout his stay in Garrison enough as it were. Throwing a hardcore supernatural twist at the end probably would have made his brain burst.

Overall, an excellent read. Plus, Novak’s story doesn’t end with this book. If you find yourself interested in his personal journey and search for his wife’s killer there is Rise the Dark. Add it to your to read list right under this one!

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