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Book Talk: Koryta, ‘How It Happened’

“How It Happened” (2018, 353 pages in paperback) by Michael Koryta is a murder mystery which appears to be no mystery at all because it begins with a confession by the killer. But it is one of the best mysteries that I’ve read. Koryta is another author who is new to me, and I don’t know why that is. His first novel, a best seller titled “Tonight I Said Goodbye,” was published in 2004 when he was only 21.

Lieutenant Don Johansson, who was sitting in an adjacent room to the interrogation room, heard what Kimberly Crepeaux was telling FBI agent Rob Barrett. His eyes widened and he said, “Ho-ly s**t. They’d been talking to Kimberly for months, and nobody had expected her to confess today. You got her. You actually got her.’”

Local cops in Port Hope, Maine, assumed that they’d had a closed case concerning the murders of Jackie Pelletier and Ian Kelly. Kimberly had admitted that she and Mathias Burke did the heinous deed. However, Mathias — the “paragon of the peninsula” and a man of admirable reputation — is not in custody.

She said that Mathias had run the victims down in a truck with a black cat painted on the hood, he forced Kimmy to stab the bodies, and then he had her and her friend Cass Odom dump the bodies in a pond. After cops hear the confession, Mathias is arrested and charged with murder, but then Agent Barrett orders the pond to be searched and then dragged.

When no bodies are found and Mathias is still in custody, an anonymous email is received that gives the exact location where the bodies are to be found. The suspicion that Kimmy must have been lying is bolstered when the bodies are discovered many miles from the pond and in a truck that does not have a black cat painted on the hood.

Embarrassed and disgraced, Barrett is assigned to a new post in Bozeman, Montana, the city where FBI agents go to die. After months of witnessing his once meteoric career run downhill, Barrett caves in to pressure from Kimmy and Jackie Pelletier’s father, takes a leave of absence from his post for “personal matters,” and returns to Maine to continue his investigation.

Back in Port Hope, Barrett reestablishes his connection with the newspaper woman whom he left behind and discovers that there has been a spate of deaths from a batch of heroin that has been combined with another drug that has a lethal effect. One of its street names is Black Cat. Can that be connected to the image that Kimmy reports having seen on the hood of the truck that Mathias drove? Can the deaths by bad drugs be connected to the killing of Jackie Pelletier and Ian Kelly? And, how is Mathias connected to all the deaths?

Trying to answer these questions is a very delicate chore, and Koryta handles the task of relating it masterfully. I’ve already received my next Koryta-written novel, and I highly recommend his work to my readers who love a good tale that is well told.


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Jim Glynn may be contacted at


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