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ODD THOMAS

With its tender surprise ending, call it It’s a Wonderful Sixth Sense, built out of wet pulp and milk.

Koontz’s suspense masterpieces (Intensity, 1996; The Face, 2002) have tight plots or strikingly enclosed worlds. But you can’t win ’em all, and despite the lift he strives for, these pages go by on automatic pilot.

Suspense here turns on the life of Odd Thomas, 21, an unassuming lad gifted with the power to see dead people who cannot tear themselves from Pico Mundo, Odd’s small hometown abroil on the Mojave Desert—as neither can Odd, whose “agoraphobia” has not let him drive or step outside the town. Ever. Koontz focuses on the little world of Pico Mundo itself, its physical layout and the lovable eccentrics who fill it chock-a-block. Among others, there’s 400-pound romance-and-mystery novelist P. Oswald Boone (better known as Little Ozzie), and Odd’s landlady Rosalia Sanchez, who fears turning invisible. Odd—a flashy fry-cook—works as a kind of Tom Cruise of the griddle at Terri Stambaugh’s Pico Mundo Grille. Terri is an Elvis savant who knows what the King was doing every hour of his life. Odd’s confidential tie with Police Chief Wyatt Porter has led Chief Porter to varied murderers and artists of mayhem whose victims have hung around and pointed out to Odd just who murdered them. Then to the grille comes strangely fungoid Bob Robertson, followed about by black bodachs, hungry doglike shadows sniffing out folks scented with death. When Odd secretly steals into Robertson’s house, he finds first a housekeeping mess, then a computer workroom of Spartan order whose files reveal the mind of a mass murderer. And Odd stumbles upon a room of pure blackness—perhaps an adjunct to King/Straub’s Black House? The date August 15 is torn from Robertson’s desk calendar. Terri tells Odd, who is often followed about by the tearful and warning ghost of Elvis, that Gladys Presley died on August 14 and Elvis on August 16. Does the missing date mean Robertson will go berserk on the 15th—and kill Odd as well?

With its tender surprise ending, call it It’s a Wonderful Sixth Sense, built out of wet pulp and milk.

Pub Date: Dec. 9, 2003

ISBN: 0-553-80249-6

Page Count: 401

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2003

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DEVOLUTION

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z(2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THEN SHE WAS GONE

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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