By Amber McGee
Jace Wilson is your average thirteen year old boy. There’s nothing inherently different or special about him. He’s afraid of heights, doesn’t want to embarrass himself in front of girls, and has to deal with bullies at school. Other than his father’s accident there’s been no outstanding events in his life. Then one day he becomes the witness to a crime so horrible it sends him across the country under a false name. Now he must try to survive in the Montana wilds with only a group of boys and three adults between him and the criminals. Jace doesn’t fear heights anymore, he fears for his life.
Michael Koryta is not new to writing thrillers. The author of nine other well acclaimed books, his most popular being The Prophet, and an ex private investigator, if anyone knows how to write quick but captivating mysteries then it’s him. Those Who Wish Me Dead is his newest novel. I’ve never read any of his other stories, but this book just convinced me to give them a try.
Koryta stretches one night into just under four hundred pages, but never once does the story feel slow or become hard to trudge through. The simplistic but descriptive language is what makes this novel work. This is less of an action story–Yes, people get shot, but the action isn’t the focus–and more of an adventure one. Readers will follow Jace as he literally crosses mountains to try for a chance at survival.
Descriptions about characters are vague save for the two criminals hunting Jace. The passages about the fire burning in the forest are longer than all of the character descriptions in the novel combined. In other stories this lack of character insight would be troubling but in this case it works, as the focus now remains on the chase rather than the characters motivations for it.
Those Who Wish Me Dead isn’t an action novel but it definitely reads like a common, almost mindless action movie. It’s only when the book is over that you realize how ludicrous some of the scenes and reactions are. These only happen near the end though, and shouldn’t affect the overall enjoyment of the novel for most. If you find yourself ready to give up on the novel for some of the sillier things keep reading, if only for the plot twists are the end that make this novel even crazier than it was before.
I recommend reading this book with some sort of soundtrack going on in the background. That way readers can get the full experience, because not only does this novel read like an action movie, it would make a really good one. It’s as if Koryta wrote a script first and then reformatted it to be a novel. Chase scenes are often confusing to read about, but for a whole book that’s pretty much one big chase scene, Koryta does a good job of keeping events rather clear.
There’s nothing particularly deep about this novel. It’s a fast-paced, fast read that will leave you in suspense right up to the very end. If you enjoy action movies, nature, fire, and a good thrill then this is the perfect book for you. Don’t let the size scare you, you’ll be finished with it before you know it.