Tuesday, July 07, 2015

“Those Who Wish Me Dead” by Michael Koryta – Witless Protection Program

Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta - book cover
The Witness Protection Program, as is often depicted in popular culture, is powerless against the far-reaching hands of the mafia and really serves as a temporary shelter or a set-up to showcase someone's murdering skills. Now, I'm certain that in real life it is a tad more effective than what we are led to believe, but for the purposes of literary fiction, let us pretend it's not the case... otherwise, we wouldn't get interesting thrillers like Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta.

The story has a rather simple premise: a fourteen year-old boy named Jace Wilson becomes the witness for a gruesome murder and is placed in witness protection, being issued a false identity, a new life and all that comes with it... all temporary measures until the killers are caught. They decide the best place to hide him away is is the Wilderness Survival Program... which naturally turns out to be an incompetent decision, but one that sets up a rather thrilling sequence of events. The killers Wilson is hiding from, the Blackwell brothers, have gotten wind of him hiding in that program, somewhere in the Montana mountains. As they leave a trail of corpses on the way to Jace, he has to defy all odds to escape them, along with the help of Ethan and Allison who run the survival program, without forgetting Hannah who mans the lookout tower.

While this work of literature may not exactly have the depth of a Dostoyevsky novel or the complexity of The Red-Headed League, what it does supremely well is serve as a smooth and easy piece of entertainment. It moves along rather quickly, but isn't terribly convoluted so as to make the reader strain their mind. The wording is rather simple and experienced readers may very well be able to finish this book in an evening or two. However, that is not to say that the excitement is killed off by predictability. On the contrary, there are a number of great twists that will certainly make you pay attention.

The setting itself is important to the story, transporting the reader to the mountains, something most of us have seen only from afar. Though there are some rather mesmerizing descriptions, Koryta doesn't spend too much time with them and certainly doesn't sacrifice story progression for pointless exposure. The simple beauty of it all is very easy and simple to imagine, and it could even be argued that the setting itself becomes a character with a pulse of its own.

When it comes to the character, Koryta did a great job at developing them just enough with the small amount of text he dedicated to them. He manages to make most of them multi-layered, unique and interesting in their own ways. Though I'm not generally crazy about having a teenager as a protagonist, I quickly took a liking to Jace as he doesn't dabble in the arts of stupidity and nonsense too often. His relations with the various other characters have some substance to them and lead to some interesting development along the way.

In the end, Those Who Wish Me Dead is very enjoyable thriller that doesn't try to think outside the box, but rather sticks to the rules to give an entertaining ride that still manages to surprise you. I definitely recommend it to all of you who are looking for a thriller for a couple of escapist evenings.


Michael Koryta (September 20, 1982)

Michael Koryta


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Michael Koryta is an author of American origin who has mainly written contemporary crime and supernatural fiction novels, some of which became bestsellers. His most well-received pieces of literature include Envy the Night, The Cypress House and Those Who Wish Me Dead.

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