Over the course of several novels Michael Koryta has established himself as one of the most able practitioners of the thriller, with a particularly impressive list of fellow writers lining up to grant encomiums (these include Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane and Stephen King – although the latter, of course is particularly generous in his granting of such largesse). Koryta’s novel Envy The Night won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the writer has put to fruitful use his own background as a former private investigator and newspaper reporter. The Prophet is a particularly strong and inventive thriller which exerts a relentless grip on the reader. Because of a decision taken in the past, the lives of two brothers have been changed irrevocably. As a teenager, a decision by Adam Austin has led to the death of his sister. His brother Kent has found a way to be charitable to the girl’s murderer, but has never forgiven his brother. 20 years pass, and the two men’s lives have taken very different routes, but when Adam agrees to assist a young woman in tracking down her missing father, she is murdered – and Adam is reminded of the events that changed his life. When it becomes necessary to deal with the past, the two men are to have strikingly different approaches – and the decisions they make will become very fateful.

Plotting is of course always crucial in thrillers such as The Prophet, but the real skill here lies in the diamond-sharp characterisation – it is precisely because we care about the characters that we find ourselves so involved. The novel is another winner for Michael Koryta.

The Prophet by Michael Koryta is published by Hodder and Stoughton

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