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Friday, 6 February 2015

What the Night Knows

By Dean Koontz
5 Stars

I came by my copy of this book from a used book pile at a Christmas charity give away. There weren't many titles there for an adult audience. I've read a Dean Koontz novel in the past and was impressed with his writing and his storytelling, so I picked it up. I like thriller/suspense but I'm not a fan of supernatural, but I knew what I was getting into. In all honesty, I will read books from established successful authors outside my genre on occasion, because I believe I can learn from them.

The hero of the story is John Calvino, a police detective, whose family was brutally murdered when he was a boy. The murderer's rampage ended, when the then fourteen year old Calvino, put a bullet in his head. Alton Turner Blackwood, the murderer has returned from beyond the grave to get revenge on our hero. Calvino's goal is to save his family from a seemingly inevitable fate. Since this is a review and not a spoiler, I'll leave it at that.

This was a best seller and deservedly so. Dean Koontz is an excellent storyteller and this one does not disappoint. The characters are all superbly developed and come to life as the story moves along. It's rich with symbolism. The suspense begins building from the start and builds to a fever pitch for the climax. You don't have to warm up to the story. It'll pull you in right away. He only leave Melody as a loose end at the end of the story and I kind of like it. She might be worth a story of her own as antagonist. I think the whole thing comes to a satisfying conclusion.

What I especially appreciate is his masterful use of what I call “off camera”. There are places I don't take my readers and he does the same. He wants your spine tingling not your stomach turning. There is no unnecessary eroticism in his scenes like I've seen from other writers either. Hats off to him. I feel some writers use those “tools” to prop up a lame scene. I've no doubt he can write that kind of stuff, he just doesn't and doesn't need to.

I give this five stars but I do have a minor criticism. I hate his first little paragraph. It comes off to me like “Long, long ago, far, far away...” He still gets his five stars and I'll get over it. Highly recommended.

My copy of the book contained an attached novella called Darkness Under the Sun. It further explores the origins of Alton Turner Blackwood and introduces another young hero named Howie Dugley. This goes back to the time before the nightmare for John Calvino began.

I won't give away the storyline but its adds to the novel above, deepens the antagonist and broadens the whole story. It is a separate story in its own right and has it's own satisfying conclusion. It refers back to the main story though so it really doesn't stand by itself. I don't recall seeing this ever done before by an author and found it most interesting. Something for me as a writer myself to file away for the future.