Arlen Wagner did not speak to the dead but he could see the dead walking among the living. When death was about to happen Arlen saw smoke rising out of the living and knew that someone’s time was up. This ability to understand the consequences of having such a gift had gotten his father killed and made Arlen’s life a nightmare. But he knew how to manage the curse and even through WWI he was able to fight when he needed to and walk away. Arlen was aware that for some of the enemy soldiers he was not going to die today by Arlen’s hands.
When the war is over and he is working his way around the country trying to scrap a living together he finds himself on a train bound for Florida. When again Arlen sees the smoke signals of death rising he jumps off the train that he finds out later was bound to collide head on with a hurricane. Thinking he and his traveling partner Paul have been saved Arlen settles in someplace he never wanted to be again – a small town with corrupt law enforcement. Through a strange set of circumstances Arlen finds himself in a backwater town in Florida repairing a hurricane ravaged tavern wishing he were anywhere but there. The police are turning up bodies that Arlen and Paul are getting blamed for and the corrupt judge is putting on a show for everyone with him as the puppet master.
Arlen knows he should leave and wants to leave but is drawn to Rebecca, the woman running this broken down place. His friend Paul thinks she can be won over but fails to realize that Arlen has already gotten the prize and Rebecca is playing hard-to-get for a reason. But Rebecca has a lot of secrets she is not sharing and the danger she dances around is making Arlen very nervous. He knows everyone has their past but believes Rebecca’s past is going to end their future together.
When Arlen figures out who the players are and he knows what is really going on in this town he figures out who needs to be removed and Arlen puts a plan into action. Arlen never expected to have someone turn on him but figured out early in life that everyone is not your friend but love does linger if you grab onto it and don’t let go regardless of what you have to do to keep it.
I thought Mr. Koryta’s last book So Cold the River was scary but it is nothing in comparison to this book. I kept the lights on and the shades drawn for fear of what was creeping around in the night. Both Arlen and Rebecca have such complicated pasts you don’t think there is enough time to explain it all but the author does and gives so much more than just character development he gives you Goosebumps. Great book and while this is a standalone every reader should pick up all other books by this author they are great.