Monday, September 24, 2012

A thriller for football season

Thrillers and football don’t seem to go together, so perhaps Michael Koryta's The Prophet is unique in intertwining a somber-toned tragic suspense story with the life and philosophies of a football coach and an ex-star player.

Adam and Kent Austin are brothers who lost their sister to a psychopath when they left her to walk home on her own one day back in high school. Now in their forties, guilt colors both of their lives, and they have each taken very different paths to cope with it. Bail bondsman Adam keeps a shrine to sister Marie and won’t get close to anyone. Football coach Kent visits prisoners in jail, bringing them a religious message and the story of his own forgiveness for the man who killed his sister.

When Adam tracks down an address for a high school girl who wants to meet and forgive her ex-con father, another murder occurs. The address belongs not to her father but to someone who created an intricate and deadly trap. But who is the trap really for, and why? Adam and Kent are forced to confront their demons and question the choices that have carried them into the present, separately and together.

 As someone who is completely and deliberately ignorant of all things football, I was surprised by the complexity and intensity of the men’s interaction with the game: how they viewed the strategies and carried them into other parts of their lives, how they tried to keep the game in perspective and use it as a tool for better living. I didn’t become a football fan, but I was able to understand better why some people are. Kind of an odd takeaway for a thriller!

Koryta’s writing succeeds in creating a heavy atmosphere of guilt and redemption. I wasn’t that fond of the two supernatural thrillers of his I read previously (The Ridge and So Cold the River), but The Prophet works much better, with more sympathetic characters and a plot that hangs together.

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