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by Michael Koryta
Hodder & Stoughton, January 2013
399 pages
9.99 GBP
ISBN: 1444765094

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In the nine years Michael Koryta has been writing, the 30-year-old former private eye and newspaper reporter has collected a stack of awards. His latest offering is his best and most convincing yet.

This is a story of guilt and redemption, past sins haunting present hopes. But above all it is a story of family and a study in morality far deeper than the usual glib and certain judgements. This superbly paced novel works on every level even making a background of American football with its wealth of stats, slogans and razzmatazz understandable and enjoyable for the non-American reader.

Brothers Adam and Kent Austin share a tragic past when a wrong decision led to the murder of their young sister. Tough linebacker Adam swore revenge, thoughtful Kent, his own football career ruined by injury, chose forgiveness. Twenty years later, Kent now the respected coach of his mid-Western town's high school team, a family man and valued member of the community, is dragged back into the nightmare that has haunted him when another teenage girl, linked to both brothers, is brutally killed. Forced to reassess his attitudes towards his brother, his own faith and beliefs, Kent struggles to come to terms with himself and all he believes.

For Adam, the older and far more physical brother, making his living as a bail bondsman on the edge of the town's criminal fraternity, obsessed by his involvement in his sister's death, the second murder represents a chance to cauterize his own guilt but he soon comes to realise that there is far more to the killing than at first appears and the real target is the destruction of his estranged brother both as a man and as a symbol of what many see as the American way of life.

This is a thriller that keeps its villains at a distance ensuring that they enhance rather than hinder the action, and provides a vivid portrayal of life in a small town, and a compelling family portrait, all encased in a morality tale that ruthlessly exposes the protagonists' weaknesses. There is also a surprisingly entertaining spin on the classic football fiction story. The plot has more twists and turns than a quarterback looking for a space to make a killer pass before its brutal climax.

To continue the gridiron metaphor, Koryta has changed the pattern of his game after eight successful novels. Where he has been relentlessly driving the ball downfield, he has suddenly thrown a long and decisive pass down the sidelines for a touchdown worthy to win any game.

John Cleal is a former soldier and journalist with an interest in medieval history. He divides his time between France and England.

Reviewed by John Cleal, April 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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