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In 2003, when he was just 21, Michael Koryta was already an established author, the youngest winner of St. Martin's Press annual private-eye novel contest

That novel, "Tonight I Said Goodbye," won a few awards and earned an Edgar nomination. Koryta followed with two more novels featuring detective Lincoln Perry.

As well-conceived as those books are, they pale in comparison to the sharply plotted "Envy the Night," one of the year's finest crime novels. "Envy the Night" shows a confidence in storytelling that doesn't follow the predictable and displays Koryta's affinity for shaping authentic characters.

The author tackles the legacy of violence, the relationships of parents and adult children and the futility of revenge while delivering an action-packed story.

Frank Temple III would seem to be a time bomb in waiting.

His father was a decorated U.S. marshal with a lucrative sideline as a hit man. When that double life was exposed, the older Frank committed suicide.

The younger Frank, now 24, had been trained to kill since he was a child, but, despite his skills, he has tried to avoid violence. When Frank learns that another hit man who betrayed his father is going to Wisconsin, the young man is ready for a showdown.

But he's not the only one after his father's former colleague.

Frank's lifelong battle not to allow himself to be "turned into a gun" as his father wanted is eloquently explored. A hint of romance between him and a woman who inherited her father's garage hits just the right tone.

Koryta sets himself as a powerful storyteller in the pitch-perfect "Envy the Night."

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