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 For his 19th book, the incredible Koontz (Mr. Murder, 1993, etc.) kicks off a change of publisher (the brand-new Tartikoff/Warner imprint) with his first-ever collection. Strange Highways holds two novels, plus 12 novellas and short stories, all but the title novel published before but here tastefully if not totally rewritten. ``Strange Highways'' itself tells of alcoholic Joey Shannon's return in 1995 to Coal Valley, a ghost town once emptied of people by the federal government when 4,000 acres of burning coal seams beneath it threatened to collapse and turn everyone to cinders. Joey can be redeemed from his alcoholism if he saves young Celeste Baker from crucifixion by his psychopathic brother, P.J., a bestselling suspense novelist (!) whom Joey once helped cover up a murder. Time hurls Joey back into 1975, and again and again in replays of the same scene he fails three times to stop his brother's hammerstrokes before the power to believe gives him the needed strength. Whatever its appeal, this is gimmicky, joylessly uninspired hackwork. Also here is ``Kittens,'' Koontz's first published story, a neat piece from 1966 that turns on the forced characterization of a religious zealot. The story that shows greatest promise, though, is ``Twilight of the Dawn,'' about an architect whose adamant atheism costs him his beloved business partner. When his wife dies in an auto accident and his son comes down with bone cancer, his atheism remains intact. But what begins with a Tolstoyan sweep fades into a breeze when two miracles attest to the truth of an afterlife. The closing novel, Chase, first published in 1974 under the pseudonym K.R. Dwyer, is straight suspense with no supernatural trimmings: a Medal of Honor winner may be the weird killer who murders fornicators on lovers' lane. Despite some weak moments and dumb dialogue in passing, the suspense holds and won't disappoint fans. Strange highways--but little feeling of freshness or originality. (First printing of 500,000; Literary Guild main selection)

Pub Date: May 23rd, 1995
ISBN: 0-446-51974-X
Page count: 512pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1995


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