My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I read Michael Koryta’s So Cold the River as a library checkout, since I’d never encountered the author before yet was in the mood to try a suspense-oriented horror thriller. And while I found it competently done in some ways, in others, it was ultimately kind of disappointing. This was an uncommon instance of a book I read and wound up not actually wanting to buy.
Eric Shaw was once an up-and-coming filmmaker, and now he’s slogging through his days by filming memorials for funerals while he avoids dealing with how he’s walked out on his wife Claire. A wealthy socialite, Alyssa Bradford, hires him to do a documentary about her father-in-law–and when Eric agrees to take the job, he comes to a town full of the obligatory layers upon layers of disturbing secrets. At the heart of them all lurks something evil, something Eric begins to see in visions once he starts taking drinks from an old bottle of Pluto Water.
At its core the plot wasn’t bad, I’ll happily give it that, yet some aspects of its execution rubbed me the wrong way. One big one was that while you initially are led to believe that drinking this old mineral water is what’s causing Eric to have visions, it comes up at one point that he has this ability anyway–and his wife actually has to remind him of an incident where he’d exhibited precognition. That yanked me RIGHT out of the story, because I found it impossible to believe that a person could forget something like that.
The other thing that bugged me was that a good deal of time is spent in the POV of the primary mortal antagonist. I acknowledge that this was necessary for the development of his character, and you do ultimately see where his character is going. But that said, more than once I found that character repugnant enough that I was almost driven away from the book.
On the good side, there were several genuinely creepy passages, and I had no issues with anything about Koryta’s prose; more, my quibbles were with aspects of his characterization and plot. In the end, though, this book didn’t seize me well enough to make it permanently into my collection. I’d recommend it as a library read, or if you need something to read on a trip, but nothing more than that. Two stars.