The Prophet by Michael Koryta

The Prophet Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

With The Prophet, Michael Koryta returns to the type of book that first made him a bestselling author. After taking a walk on the paranormal side for the last few books, Koryta returns readers to Ohio for a “family in conflict” suspenseful mystery.

The basic plot of The Prophet is set around two bothers Kent and Adam Austin. When they were teenagers, their sister was abducted and found murdered. The loss of their sister nearly destroyed the family and the aftermath has followed the brothers into their adulthood. But different people deal with extreme guilt and grief in different ways. Adam’s life fell apart. He dropped out of Ohio State leaving a very promising football career on the field when he left. Eventually, he returned home to become a bail bondsman. In contrast Kent seemed to reach deep inside himself and gather strength from the tragedy. Kent became deeply religious. He married, became the local high school football coach and is now, finally about to lead the town’s team to a state championship. One brother lives on the edge of society while the other has become a pillar of that same society. And then, unbelievably, another young woman is murdered. The parallels to the earlier crime are just too much for the town. Again, the high school’s team is marching towards a championship and again the Austin brothers are part of that team. When their sister was murdered, Adam was the star of the team. Now it’s his brother Kent who is coaching. The town is left to wonder how this could all be happening again.

Koryta is a master at weaving the plot around the characters’ strengths and flaws in such a way that readers are drawn in to the story almost as characters themselves. As the town tries to sort out what has happened and compares the new murder with the Austin girl’s murder twenty years ago, as a reader I couldn’t help but get caught up in the “isn’t it just a little too much of a coincidence” line of thought of the townspeople. Adam was the football hero in the past and now here is his brother leading the team this time around. The first victim was their sister, now the second victim is again connected to Adam.

Ultimately, The Prophet is a story of survival and redemption. The fallen brother Adam tries to redeem himself and find the murderer as a way of beating down the demons of guilt left from his sister’s death, while his brother Kent has found comfort in his deep faith over the years. Will it be enough to weather this storm as well?

Koryta also uses the depressed economic state of the town as a driving force. This book will hit a nerve with many people who can identify with the community and characters of the book. Hard economic times can tear a community apart or draw it together. It can drive people to acts completely out of character and cause and a general unease of suspicion and guilt of everyone and everything around them. Koryta has captured those traits perfectly.

The use of high school as a back drop of this story is perfect. This beaten down, economically struggling town is given new life and something to hope for as they follow the team‘s march for the championship. It sets the tone of the town as a close knit community. Will the football be enough to get the town through this latest tragedy? That is the question readers will ponder as they stay up late to finish this gripping tale.

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