Johnny's Reviews > Mr Murder

Mr Murder by Dean Koontz
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Nov 19, 2010

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** spoiler alert ** Not a favorite at first, but when I read it again at an older age it was better. More of a straightforward thriller than something dealing with the supernatural. More a case of weird science gone awry, which is a favorite topic of Koontz.

Writers like to write about writers. Before “Mr Murder”, Koontz introduced us to Dominick Corvaisis in “Strangers”, Hilary Thomas in “Whispers” and Laura Shane in “Lightning” (of whom there’s even a quote in the book). And the new book “Relentless” is another example. They’re usually my favorite type of character as well, totally identifiable, as in Stephen King’s “Bag of Bones”. To the average reader, however, it might come over as if the author is just writing about himself and only changing the name, in an attempt to give his own life a more exciting edge. While it’s true that some personal elements will be copied, that’s usually where the comparison ends.

For a long time Marty Stillwater has been the image I had in my mind of Dean Koontz. This was enforced when Koontz published the children’s story Stillwater writes for his fictional kids in “Mr Murder”. But of course real human beings are far more layered than what can ever be described on paper involving made-up characters.

But back to the book. Novelist Martin Stillwater’s life is interrupted when a perfect lookalike enters his home and demands his life back. The book consists of the Stillwaters’ survival, coupled with the slow revelation of that lookalike’s origins: a clone made in a military project which mistakenly used Marty’s blood instead of the prepared donor’s.

It’s one of the more realistic Koontz stories out there. If you disregard some more extraordinary elements, it’s a story you might see in the paper or on the news. The characters, the entire Stillwater family, become real people. And while usually I have trouble believing the maturity of children in Koontz’s books, the Stillwater kids are more like real kids than the kids in other books. They weren’t only great characters, they were real characters. Kids in Koontz’s books usually act much older than they are, have a far wider vocabulary range than they should have at that age, and always seem to have an inate understanding of the world and its secrets, emotions and meaning. Luckily there are exceptions, as in this book.

The villain of the piece, our lookalike, is one of the more tragic bad guys. In some ways he’s very similar to the Outsider in “Watchers”. He’s simply the enemy because of where he came from, not really out of personal choice. Even while heavily disturbed, he’s someone with whom we can identify as well. A feeling Koontz tries to accentuate by using the present tense for the parts told from his point of view, while the rest of the book is in past tense.

Because of his abilities, there’s never a question which Marty is the false Marty and which one is the real Marty. I’ve always wanted another layer added to this story, where the reader is actually beginning to doubt the identities and might believe that the false Marty is actually telling the truth. That would be too complicated, however, and would be inconsistent with the rest of the story.
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