Michael Koryta is one of those writers who loves to explore various genres, sub-genres, styles, and tones within his books; no two of his novels are even remotely similar. The one constant across his oeuvre is his undeniable talent at showcasing the written word. His latest, How It Happened, is no exception; but what it just might be is his best novel to date.
How It Happened begins with Rob Barrett, an interrogation expert celebrated for his ability to elicit truthful confessions, questioning Kimberly Crepeaux about her involvement with the death of two local Maine residents – Jackie Pelletier and Ian Kelly.
The tale Kimberly tells seems straightforward enough. She recounts a night of drinking and drugs that turns to unexpected violence, after which the bodies are disposed of in a secluded lake. Rob believes her – especially the part about the involvement of Mathias Burke. You see, Rob has his own history with the Burke bully and putting him away for life would certainly feel like vindication after a lifetime of taunting and abuse.
The only problem is that after Rob stakes his career on Kimberly’s confession, the bodies turn up in a completely different location and all evidence points to a totally different suspect. Rob resigns and the wheels of justice stall. Until Kimberly reaches out to Howard Pelletier, Jackie’s father, and the two of them pull Rob back into the search for the truth. With his career over, Rob has nothing else to lose – or so he thinks. Their investigation will uncover a far greater conspiracy and not everyone will come out of this one alive.
Michael Koryta knows how to create characters that readers bond with. By keeping them realistically flawed, he allows his fans to relate to each individual – good and bad, or more accurately those who possess a combination of both – to such an extent that readers will literally worry for their safety with each new risky decision they make.
The plotting of How It Happened is stellar stuff with just the right pacing. Koryta doesn’t need to rely on reader manipulation to keep fans glued to the pages; his tale has more organic twists and turns and the natural density of a kudzu vine invasion. And yet, each new revelation seems inevitable and when the final tale is told – in the penultimate chapter – readers will sit stunned at how simple it all seems in the end.
How It Happened is a highlight on Michael Koryta’s already exceptional author journey. Readers can expect many accolades to be bestowed on this excellent novel throughout the remainder of the year.
This review is based on the audio-book version of the novel.