Companion to 1996’s Intensity: a spiritedly deft set of plates kept twirling in the air as Koontz takes on himself all the weight of his speed-driven suspense.
Quiet Billy Wiles, a lapsed novelist with writer’s block who at 14 killed both his parents, tends bar and has visited his fiancée, Barbara, daily since she fell into a botulism coma nearly four years before. Here and there, Barbara says something, but she never awakes. Then there’s a note on Billy’s windshield: If you don’t take this note to the police and get them involved, I will kill a lovely blond schoolteacher somewhere in Napa County. If you do take this note to the police, I will instead kill an elderly woman active in charity work. You have six hours to decide. Since Billy doesn’t officially go the police but rather to his cop buddy Lanny Olsen, the freak batters to death a lovely blond schoolteacher. Other notes appear, offering ambiguous moral choices based on Billy’s inaction. Then the grisly notes ask for an action from him, with the freak demanding that Billy choose between a fast or slow death for the victim. Waste the bitch or torture her at length? Does all this have something to do with Dardre, Barbara’s addicted fraternal twin sister who lusts for the $3 million now gathering interest in Barbara’s trust fund from a legal suit for damages? Latest threat: Barbara’s death at Whispering Pines Convalescent Home, followed by Billy’s suicide. The velocity mounts and builds chapter by chapter to dazzling-devil thunderbolts.
T.S. Eliot meets Charles Dickens in these pages (yes!), which only underscores that Koontz’s brilliant plotting and paste characters never add up to the one Rapturously Memorable Work many expect from his dancing intelligence.