Book Review: 'The Prophet' by Michael Koryta

By Doug Childers
Richmond Times-Dispatch
August 12, 2012

Michael Koryta's new crime novel, "The Prophet," offers several moral lessons. The first one to surface is simple: If you're a small-town bail bondsman, beware of easy work.
As the book opens, a woman visits Adam Austin — yes, you guessed it: he's a small-town bail bondsman — and asks for his help tracking down her estranged father.
He has recently gotten out of prison, she says, and she'd like to continue the correspondence they struck up while he was incarcerated.
The woman says she's a college student, and she offers $200 for Adam's services.
It's an easy job (beware!), and Adam quickly tracks down the man's rented house, based on clues he gleans from the father's letters.
Adam leaves a message about the rental property's location on the woman's cellphone and forgets about the job — until the police call and say they want to talk to him.
His client wasn't a college student, a police detective says. She was a 17-year-old girl in high school, and she has been murdered. Possibly at the house where Adam said her father was staying.
Note to Adam: Beware of easy work.
Now, this is where "The Prophet" gets deliciously complicated. Twenty-two years ago, Adam's 16-year-old sister had been murdered, and as he mulls over the recent murder, similarities to his sister's case begin to surface.
Adam's brother, Kent, is unconvinced that the recent murder had anything to do with him or his brother. Unlike Adam, he has found solace in religion, and he assumes his brother's obsession is another symptom of his unhealthy ruminations.
Besides, the man who admitted to killing Adam and Kent's sister died in prison. So how could the same person be responsible for both murders?
Then Kent, a high school football coach leading his undefeated team to its first state championship since the Austin sister's death, receives a letter that changes everything.
"The Prophet," Koryta's ninth novel, marks his return to familiar territory after an intriguing, three-book foray into the supernatural.
Still, a whiff of the gothic lingers over "The Prophet." With each turned page, Koryta builds the impression that something unearthly is gaining strength.
The Austin brothers may be, in their different ways, haunted by the past, but Koryta suggests something else — something active and plotting — is at work now .
It is, in a word, chilling.
That he manages to make a football championship equally compelling is especially impressive.
It's certainly an odd pairing. (Will they find the killer before he strikes again? Will the wide receiver whose girlfriend was murdered be able to concentrate in the big game?)
But Koryta, who has yet to turn 30, merges the two story lines masterfully in what is surely one of the summer's best thrillers.