Envy the Night

It's been a while since I tore through a book in less than 24 hours. Faced with the luxury of a week off from school for February Vacation, I easily found time to digest Michael Koryta's latest offering, Envy the Night.

Up until a few years ago, I hadn't been a big fan of crime/mystery novels. I preferred fantasy tales like Lord of the Rings, the ramblings of Jack Kerouac, and non-fiction stories on technology, teaching, and travel.

It was actually one of my former students who turned me toward this genre. She was a fan of Mary Higgins Clark, and usually picked one of her novels when it was time to present an Outside Reading Book for my English class. I was always impressed with how into the books she seemed, and how well she was able to keep her classmates' attention as she detailed key plot events and discussed things like mood, tone, and theme.

Shortly after one of her presentations, I picked up The Night Gardner by George Pelecanos. I finished that in a few days, then went on to read almost all of his books. While searching for a new crime novelist, I came across heaps of praise for Koryta, and decided to check him out. He did not disappoint.

The plot of Envy the Night progresses quickly. Koryta's writing is detailed, yet never at the expense of forward movement. His protagonist, Frank Temple III, is both common and unique, predictable yet independent.

From the inside of the book jacket, Koryta sets in motion a story arc that seems headed for an obvious conclusion - that is, until things in Tomahawk,Wisconsin start to get dicey.

He moved at the first sound of her voice. Whirled and came toward her, fast and aggressive, and she had the sudden thought that surprising him like that had been a bad idea. The overhead lights were long, old-fashioned fluorescent tubes, and they didn't snap on like an incandescent lamp would. There was a hint of a glow, followed by a short humming sound, and then the room filled with light. By that time the guy had closed the gap between them to about five feet, and Nora stepped back, stumbling over the stool. When she pulled up short, he did, too, but her sense of command over the situation was already gone. He'd frightened her - she knew it, and he knew it. (45-46)

Koryta mixes action and insight effectively. Dialogue is authentic, and serves to advance the plot. Koryta also uses internal dialogue - which he places in italics - to provide emotion and backstory to his characters.

It's been a while since I was so engrossed in a novel that I didn't want to do anything else until I completed it. For those who enjoy a clean, plot-driven thriller with characters who don't try to step outside their roles, Envy the Night is highly recommended.

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