This review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers and is reprinted here with permission.
At the start of Michael Koryta’s Those Who Wish Me Dead, 13-year-old Jace Wilson tries to conquer his fear of heights by jumping into an abandoned quarry lake. Just as he thinks the drop wasn’t so bad, he encounters a dead body in the water. Then two men dressed like cops approach the edge above, escorting a third man under a hood, and, as Jace hides beneath a rock, he witnesses the murder of the hooded man.
Ethan Serbin runs a program in Montana that teaches people how to survive the wilderness. One night, a former student and current US marshal asks Ethan to take a young murder witness into his next group of students to help hide the boy in the mountains in case the killers come looking for him. His parents don’t trust law enforcement, and Jace needs to be kept safe until he can testify in court. Ethan is reluctant but can’t say no to protecting a child. His decision brings hell to his front door and forces him to use every skill he’s ever taught to stay alive and protect those he loves.
The throat-clutching suspense in the novel’s opening is maintained throughout. The protagonists are well defined and sympathetic, regular folk who discover their own incredible strength in extraordinary circumstances. And readers may well wish the strikingly creepy villains dead. Much of the novel takes place over rough terrain, but Koryta (Edgar Award finalist for Tonight I Said Goodbye) is a sure-footed guide who takes readers on a harrowing adventure they won’t soon forget.
Nerd verdict: For Those Who Wish for unrelenting suspense