The Silent Hour, Michael Koryta, Minotaur Books, $24.99.
Michael Koryta has very swiftly claimed a place as one of the very best of contemporary private eye writers. His Lincoln Perry series, beginning with his knockout debut, Tonight I Said Goodbye, has only accelerated in both quality and depth. This latest installment is a very strong series entry as well as an excellent novel on it's own. As the book opens, Lincoln is approached in person by an ex-con named Parker Harrison. Harrison has been writing to him for months, and Lincoln has been putting the letters in his round file. When Harrison turns up at Lincoln's office, Lincoln has little choice but to talk with him, though he's very reluctant.
Harrison is searching for the couple who helped him when he got out of prison, Alexandra and Joshua Cantrell, at their very small rehabilitation facility out in the Ohio countryside, called Whisper Ridge. Lincoln agrees to go look at the property—which has been abandoned for twelve years—and then he's planning to talk with Harrison again. The property, a multimillion dollar home built directly into a hillside, gives Lincoln the shivers. Even more creepily, when he sees a plaque left almost at the doorstep, the place feels like a memorial to him. When it turns out that Joshua is actually dead and Alexandra is the daughter of a local mob kingpin, Lincoln's distrust of Harrison and his disinclination to get into any kind of mob business prompts him to break it off with Harrison.
Life is never so simple, though, especially in a PI novel—and another investigator, Ken Merriman, turns up from Pennsylvania. He wants Lincoln's help, telling him he thinks Lincoln has the skills to help him find Alexandra and figure out what happened to Joshua. Ken had been working for Joshua's family, a case that virtually destroyed his reputation, and he wants to make things right with the family. All through the novel, Lincoln is questioning his choices. In past cases he's gotten both his partner and his girlfriend in trouble, and he's having trouble deciding if putting the people he cares about in jeopardy is worth it. He has issues to work through both with his reporter girlfriend, Amy, and with his partner, Joe, who has been down in Florida for months with no signs of returning.
All through the book Linc steps away and then back again as he tries to decide what to do; it takes an unexpected death late in the proceedings to get hin well and truly hooked. As in many good PI novels, nothing is what it seems to be, and Koryta handles the eventual plot twists with the hand of a master. They are both believable and inevitable, but still a surprise. Koryta is also wonderful at action sequences, something at which he has very few peers, and the peers he does have—Crais, Lehane, Connelly—are the best guys in the business. The tentative decision Lincoln is able to reach at the end of the novel will probably have you longing for the next installment. Lincoln is a character who grows and matures with each installment, and I look forward very much to his future development.
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