“The Storm King” by Brendan Duffy

I requested this book for review through NetGalley and was glad when I was granted an e-copy by Ballantine Books. I’d seen the novel mentioned in a Shelf Awareness newsletter and was immediately intrigued because I liked the title. I assumed it would be a paranormal novel and didn’t bother reading the synopsis, so I was surprised when I later realized it’s a thriller/suspense story.

Goodreads summary:

Haunted by dark secrets and an unsolved mystery, a young doctor returns to his isolated Adirondacks hometown in a tense, atmospheric novel in the vein of Michael Koryta and Harlan Coben.

Burying the past only gives it strength — and fury.

Nate McHale has assembled the kind of life most people would envy. After a tumultuous youth marked by his inexplicable survival of a devastating tragedy, Nate left his Adirondack hometown of Greystone Lake and never looked back. Fourteen years later, he’s become a respected New York City surgeon, devoted husband, and loving father.

Then a body is discovered deep in the forests that surround Greystone Lake.

This disturbing news finally draws Nate home. While navigating a tense landscape of secrets and suspicion, resentments and guilt, Nate reconnects with estranged friends and old enemies, and encounters strangers who seem to know impossible things about him. Haunting every moment is the Lake’s sinister history and the memory of wild, beautiful Lucy Bennett, with whom Nate is forever linked by shattering loss and youthful passion.

As a massive hurricane bears down on the Northeast, the air becomes electric, the clouds grow dark, and escalating acts of violence echo events from Nate’s own past. Without a doubt, a reckoning is coming — one that will lay bare the lies that lifelong friends have told themselves and unleash a vengeance that may consume them all. (Goodreads)

My thoughts:

The Storm King was a decent read. It was intriguing and captivating despite the slow pace at the beginning, however it became increasingly fast paced as the suspense mounts and we get closer to learning who the killer is.

“A place like this was built of myth and varnished in legend.”

Though it wasn’t the paranormal novel I assumed it would be, the atmosphere and setting had a sinister quality to it that appealed to my love of the supernatural. Those elements, the atmosphere and setting, were my favorite things about the story and I think the story’s strength lies there. The Storm King is set in a town that lies along a large lake in the Adirondacks. In that town is a decrepit nightclub with a dark past where Nate and his friends used to hang out in their teens. The combination of the lake with its veneer of calm masking the hungry current beneath and the dark nightclub that seems like a predator perched on the lake waiting to corrupt the innocent, made me think there was something supernatural going on in the book. Add to that the lashing, howling storm that rages through much of the story and I began to think that maybe something more than mere humans are the perpetrators of the crimes discussed in the novel.

The hint at legends and how much “the lake loves its stories” and that Nate is one of those stories — “the Boy Who Fell” — made me wonder if Duffy was trying to trick me, though I wasn’t sure what the trick was. Maybe Nate is the Storm King and can harness the storm to punish those who did wrong.

Nate is an intriguing character, but I didn’t like him. Actually, all the characters are unlikeable, and usually it’s hard for me to enjoy a novel whose protagonist I dislike, but such wasn’t the case here. I guess I was too interested in learning who the killer is (or rather “was” since the murder occurred in the past) and too interested in the story’s atmosphere. However, I do like how Nate develops over the course of the story. It begins with him thinking himself invincible as the Storm King and ends with him realizing he’s just as guilty and vulnerable as everyone else, and that his frightful anger was a façade for how fearful he is. The Storm King was a mask he wore in ways he wasn’t even aware of, which helped the mystery in the story.

Much as I enjoyed the story, there were a few drawbacks; but my main one was the slow pace at the beginning, which might be off-putting for some. It certainly almost made me give up on the book, but I think it’s worth it to power through those plodding moments. The slow pace is needed to give us a sense of the setting and who our protagonist, Nate, is as well as provide enough time for the story to develop — it takes place over two or three days during a storm. We get a lot of flashbacks to Nate’s past to stall the plot and give us some backstory on the people in Nate’s town.

Overall: ★★★☆☆

It’s a decent read and is entertaining. I’d recommend it if you’re in the mood for something suspenseful. Despite the slow beginning, it was a fairly quick read for me and I completed it in about a week (a very busy week).

Buy | Borrow | Bypass

The Storm King will be published on February 6th.

10 thoughts on ““The Storm King” by Brendan Duffy

  1. Sounds interesting, though it’s not my usual genre. I, too, have a hard time getting into books when I don’t like the characters…. but it sounds like the author made up for that in other ways!


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