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So Cold the River

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  4,602 Ratings  ·  816 Reviews
It started with a beautiful woman and a challenge. As a gift for her husband, Alyssa Bradford approaches Eric Shaw to make a documentary about her father-in-law, Campbell Bradford, a 95-year-old billionaire whose past is wrapped in mystery. Eric grabs the job even though there are few clues to the man's past--just the name of his hometown and an antique water bottle he's k ...more
ebook, 0 pages
Published June 9th 2010 by Little, Brown and Company (first published 2010)
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Sep 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-said
Eric is a once upon a time Los Angeles cinematographer who is currently etching out a living in Chicago, creating videos for weddings, anniversaries, graduations and funerals. Lots and lots of funerals. In fact it is at one of these events that he meets Alyssa Bradford, who makes Eric a very generous offer to travel to French Lick and West Baden, Indiana where her father in law grew up and to make a documentary based on his early years, which remain shrouded in mystery. She has also brought Eric ...more
Crystal Craig

Recommended Reading

I first read Michael Koryta's, 'So Cold the River' back in January of 2013. It was my first experience with the author for whom I'd never even heard of before. I'd read a few reviews and some compared his writing style to the likes of Stephen King. Jeez, talk about putting the pressure on someone.

I remember - like it was yesterday - how engrossed I became in the story; the mysterious, almost eerie tale so very rich in history. I remember vivid descriptions; phantom trains a
Jan 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm glad I didn't listen to the mediocre reviews I read about So Cold the River. I had almost decided not to read it and that would have been my loss. All in all I really liked it though it was a tad long and probably could have been wrapped much quicker.

The strongest element that kept me reading was the back story of the the West Baden Springs Hotel and the French Lick Springs Resort (Indiana). Having just visited these this past fall I was fascinated by the way Koryta weaved the history of th
Nov 01, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hated
Oh man, this book was awful. I can't believe I finished it. It would have made a good drinking game if you were reading it at a party, though. You could do a shot whenever a character started a sentence with hell, or used damn as an adjective or said that something "damn near" happened. It wasn't that they were swear words that offended me, it was that there were a MILLION ZILLION of sentences like that. It got to where I had to set the book down and groan at parts to rally myself into plunging ...more
Aug 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sweeter-reads
Moral of the story.... when someone hands you a greenish water bottle with a grinning devil on it, hand it back, IMMEDIATELY!

I was captivated by the storyline of this book, and saw shades reminiscent of a Stephen King book in it. Michael Koryta was able to blend past, present and paranormal into a interesting and well told story.
Jolinda Van
This book dragged. It started it out with a promising premise but half way through the novel I was fed up with the protagonist's resentful, self-pitying, whiny personality. He felt that he was the victim of powerful men intellectually inferior to him and much less talented and by God, even if it destroyed his career and his marriage, he was the brilliant and wronged victim and wanted everyone to agree!
The story was sluggish in places and didn't come together very satisfyingly, for me at least, i
William Bentrim
Jan 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So Cold the River by Michael Koryta

A down and out want-to-be Steven Spielburg find himself immersed in water, deceit and confusion. A trip to a famous resort for a simple project lands him in the most danger fraught period of his life.

Eric Shaw is a man with an enormous ego that has been shattered by failure. His self loathing promotes his driving of those who love him to despair. Koryta truly paints a man who conspires to destroy himself. The characterization is poignant and colorful. Small to
Mar 21, 2011 rated it liked it
This is not normally the sort of book I would pick up to read. In fact, if I saw this cover in a store I would think, "I am in the WRONG section! Get me out of here." But I heard a review of the book on NPR and learned that it is a paranormal thriller that takes place in French Lick, Indiana. Most people associate French Lick with Larry Bird, but I have a very close relationship with the town. My family started visiting French Lick almost 20 years ago and have gone down almost every year. It is ...more
Apr 08, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who enjoy Stephen King
A new author for me and I was intrigued by the review--any book that involves elements of the paranormal and mystery without having actual aliens, etc. I am intrigued. The premise involves a mysterious bottle of water which appears to have properties that allow a young film maker to "see" visions of past events. Things happen that are not explainable by any logical means.

I found it an interesting story that kept me wanting to know the ending. It is in the Stephen King type tradition but not on
Check out my interview with Michael Koryta in August 2012 >>

The main protagonist a film maker needs to define and separate visions and dreams with reality. For a living, while not working on a movie, he made tribute videos, wedding videos etc for private clients and some malevolent insidious presence seems to call him to a little job of putting together a tribute video for a dying man. It may be a project that could hold some meanin
When I heard about So Cold the River on a podcast, I thought it sounded interesting enough to put on my wishlist. It has an old hotel with an interesting history. It has a mysterious bottle of mineral water. It has a ghost. It has every element needed for a terrifically creepy story.

Unfortunately, it fell kind of flat. It was good, but it missed very good by a long shot. Koryta's style is too reminiscent of Stephen King. It seems deliberately imitative. To me, that detracted greatly from my read
Trischa Heitman-ochs
I cannot believe anyone would rate this book any less than 5 stars. I loved it so much I actually flew to Kentucky, drove to West Baden Springs and stayed there for a week... the hotel was EVERYTHING that Michael described in the book. Yes, the book is a little mystical in some parts which I normally am not into, but hey... I grew up on Goosebumps books and Tales from the Crypt. The only other thing I will say besides READ IT, is that my husband, who can barely get through a magazine article wit ...more
I didn’t enjoy this book very much. It’s a paranormal thriller which is a genre I usually enjoy. The story was mildly interesting and the back story was by far more intriguing. Koryta does a great job of doling out just enough of the secondary plot to keep you turning pages. He writes well and clearly and the characters are well defined but for me the book never took flight. There are so many wonderful books around that it upsets me to read 500 pages of a book that’s just so so. I think I’d feel ...more
The Haunted Reading Room 2017 - Year of Lovecraft
Mar 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Horror, Supernatural, Paranormal
Super-fantastic, excellent! Did not want to sleep-must find all this author's other books. One reviewer compared it to King's "The Shining," but for me it has overtones of that and Robert Jackson Bennett's "Mr. Shivers" and much, much more! 50 stars would be nice!
This is the kind of incredible storytelling at which I marvelled with Stephen King's "Literary Three" (Bag of Bones; Lisey's Story; Duma Key) and with Bennett's "Mr. Shivers." I don't find it often, but a story this compelling, this me
Celia Campbell-smith
I am not typically a fan of books about the "super natural" or ghost story genre. However, I really enjoyed reading "So Cold the River" by Michael Koryta. Kortya is from Bloomington, Indiana and many of his books are set in Southern Indiana. For anyone who enjoys going to French Lick, this is a must read! It is an exciting page turner and very well written.
Janette Fleming
May 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eric Shaw, a failed documentary maker is now trying to make a living filming weddings and funerals when he receives a strange request from a woman. Alyssa Bradford wants him to make a film about the life of her dying father in law, 95-year-old Chicago millionaire Campbell Bradford.
She offers Eric a very generous amount of money to travel to West Baden in Indiana to trace Campbell’s early years for the film. Alyssa also gives him a small bottle of water which the dying Campbell had kept his enti
Mar 16, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
From the moment I picked the book up, I kept feeling like this book had a "Stephen King's Shining" vibe, which seems to have been intentional. After all, the main character himself remarks on how the hotel he's staying in reminds him of the Overlook hotel. Other than those initial vibes, that's where the similarities end.

Eric used to be a relatively in-demand man in the film industry, having an uncanny knack for choosing the exactly right spots to film in. Now Eric spends his days composing wedd
Larry H
Apr 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eric Shaw was once a promising cinematographer poised to be the next big thing in Hollywood, until his temper destroyed his career, which significantly damaged his marriage. Now, he mostly makes retrospective films about people, usually used for funerals and other special events. So when Alyssa Bradford hires him to do a biography of her 95-year-old billionaire father-in-law, Campbell Bradford, whose childhood is a mystery to their family, Eric jumps at the chance. Armed only with a vintage bott ...more
Laura LaRoche
Dec 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow!! I loved this book dearly.

To start with I want to say I am from this area Micheal Koryta wrote about. As teenagers, my parents worked at the French Lick Hotel. They met and fell in love as they worked there. They married in 1952 and never parted until my father's passing 2 years ago. I remember so many changes French Lick has gone through. Some of my favorite childhood memories are based around this place. I have never met this author, even though we share memories of this place.
This book i
Jul 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! I thought this might be just another mundane so-so story, but after a few pages I began to realize how cleverly the author snaked his way into this story. Mystical, thrilling, and definitely chilling--this is a read you won't want to do after dark.

No kidding--things will go bump in the night, causing you to put the book away until daylight. This, then, is a gripping tale that will have you shivering and reaching for the light switch at every creak in the floor, every knock in the wall.

Interesting and fairly quick read. One of the May book choices in the Sweeter Reads bookclub. I loved the historical background of the area and the underlying ghost story. Some have mentioned the book got slow half way through. I didn't find this in my read. My final reaction to the novel - I need to re-watch the movie Twister with Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton. And I really need to plan a trip to Indiana and the grand hotels in French Lick/West Baden.

“Just stay with me for twenty minutes, buddy, e
I loved this book. Michael Koryta is an author that I will keep on my watch list.
Throughout "So Cold the River" I kept wondering where it was going.
Once I got further into the book I could not stop. I can't believe I had not heard of this book sooner. I loved how the author used real places and created a compelling story. The mineral water, the locals, the evil, Cambell, the story was so interesting and I really enjoyed it. It was a great change of pace from the vampires and werewolves. Very o
Dec 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book that I have read by Michael Koryta and I am now a fan! Story is about a beautiful old hotel in a small Indiana town and the mystical river/springs that are nearby. Eric the main character in the book is led to French Lick and West Baden as a researcher for a mysterious woman. Koryta does a great job of developing interesting story lines behind the characters and also weaving them together along the way. Enjoyed very much. If you like stories that are historical with a litt ...more
Nov 05, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Audio version: Sometimes a girl just needs a fun listen with no life lessons, no thought-provoking issues, no lyrical prose. This was that and it was a fun ride. This was my first Koryta book, and I would listen to another one. I liked the setting, the characters, the supernatural twist, and I liked the narrator.
Feb 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's been a long time since I read a book that was this hard to put down. I loved everything about this book. Highly recommend if you're looking for something with a supernatural spin.
Two-haiku review:

He's to make movie
Starts having visions of past
Evil spirit comes

Kind of horror tale
Drama, at times compelling
Not what expected
Cyvil B.
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
a wonderful read by Koryta that holds you and keeps you reading with many surprises.
Nick Bauer
Jul 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Decent pace. Good story line. Lots of unexpected twists. I enjoyed the book.
Giovanni Gelati
Apr 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Warning: I really enjoy Michael Koryta’s work; I have read his five other novels and must confess to really enjoying them. I was pumped when I received the news that he had a new novel in the pipe and looked forward to the release date. The thing I was not excited about was that my two favorite characters of his are nowhere to be seen. So Cold the River is billed as standalone novel of suspense; I think that the description sells it short.
Here is a part of the jacket that describes the plot of t
Jun 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eric Shaw used to be a one of the most talented and most sought after film makers. That all changed in an instant. All it took was for him to lose his temper and after that, his career crumbled faster then you can say “Oscar”. Eric still produces films but recapping the lives of ones who have passed away. At one of the funerals, Eric is approached by the lovely, Alyssa Bradford. Eric did her sister’s movie. Alyssa is impressed with Eric’s work.

Alyssa calls Eric a few days later. She wants to hi
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Michael Koryta (pronounced Ko-ree-ta) is the New York Times-bestselling author of 11 suspense novels. His work has been praised by Stephen King, Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Dean Koontz, James Patterson, Dennis Lehane, Daniel Woodrell, Ron Rash, and Scott Smith among many others, and has been translated into more than 20 languages. His books have won or been nominated for the Los Angeles Times Boo ...more
More about Michael Koryta...

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“...what still blew them all away was time itself, the days and months and the years, oh yes, the years. They went faster than anything man had the capacity to invent, so fast that for a while they fooled you into thinking they were slow, and was there any crueler trick than that?” 6 likes
“You're too worried about figuring out what you can believe about all of this, and then figuring out how to control it. That's how most people approach their lives. Way I feel, though, after a lot of years of living? Not much of what matters in the world is under your control. You don't dictate, you adapt. That's all. So stop trying to control this, and start trying to listen to what it's telling you.” 1 likes
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