I have to admit that I always thought writers like Dean Koontz were hacks, kind of like King. There's no nuance, nothing deeper to their work, it's al...moreI have to admit that I always thought writers like Dean Koontz were hacks, kind of like King. There's no nuance, nothing deeper to their work, it's all sleazy airport thriller. Which is fine, if you like that sort of thing, and just that sort of thing, but I don't usually.
But this particular book has kept coming back to find me and entice me. The plot is ridiculously simple, with the main character getting off work and finding a note on his windshield. It says: "If you don’t take this note to the police and get them involved, I will kill a lovely blond schoolteacher. If you do take this note to the police, I will instead kill an elderly woman active in charity work. You have four hours to decide. The choice is yours." I saw this on the back cover of this book years ago and have been trying to talk myself out of it for a while now.
Last week I gave up, another copy came into my life, and I gave it a shot. Koontz is certainly no King, at least not here. This book isn't the usual thriller hokum, or, well, actually, it is, but it's nicely executed, tearing wonderfully into the dark aspects of human character and putting you in the character's shoes. And fears. Gruesome but not too gruesome. I have some minor complaints about the ending, but they're minor. If you find yourself on a long trip, this is a better selection for you that most of what you'd find in the airport bookshop.(less)
This is a book that I sought out because of a certain professional curiosity and, related to that, because it was the answer to me posing the question...moreThis is a book that I sought out because of a certain professional curiosity and, related to that, because it was the answer to me posing the question "What are you reading right now?" to a friend.
At the time, he was half way through the book and severely intrigued by where it was going. Several days later I was half way through the book and knew exactly what he meant.
He told me when he finished it that he was a little bit let down and now that I've finished it, I know what he means. You can find a synopsis somewhere else, but they're not kidding about the comparisons between this and The Magus and The Secret History. It, of course, falls short of both those books, but is equally it's own thing, but not nearly as memorable though. This is airport fiction done through an author with a very literary and poetic style.
Anyway. Up until the book's big reveal around page 270 or 280 or somewhere in between, I have to say that I was having the time of my life. For a book with not much happening in it, I was riveted. Hill does a brilliant job of setting up a certain tone throughout the book, a certain sense of dread that seems to hiding behind every corner or spying on you from afar in this new world we live in, this "age of terror."
The only SPOILER (albeit minor) I'll add there is that Hill's book falls apart, I believe, when he leaves his own voice behind and the story becomes reminiscent of things that Don Delillo was doing so brilliantly in the 70s and 80s and in the same setting as well.
I complain here about the big reveal being a let down, but then again, this book is primarily all "set up," so once we find out what the secret is, what is so hidden amongst this attractively beguiling group of friends, there's probably no way you could be let down. The book doesn't start to become bad anywhere in the last 75 pages, not at all, but it's fair to say that it doesn't hold your interest in quite the same way in those last parts. Understandably so, to an extent: More fun can always be found in the chase as opposed to the capture, as it were. A thing can have an incredible allure when it's hidden, when you know it's there in front of you and just around that corner, but that shine can fade in the harsh light of day when it's found. The brilliance of this novel, for me, wasn't the whole and complete story, but the parts in the dark, in the searching.(less)