In his latest, Koontz (Breathless, 2009, etc.) makes the case that the only thing worse than a serial killer might be his ghost.
In his lifetime, Alton Turner Blackwood was no niggling serial killer. He was family size. In fact, slaughtering families was his stock in trade, and 20 years before the novel’s opening, Blackwood’s efforts had culminated in the decimation of the family Calvino: mother, father and two preteen daughters, one of whom he raped prior to strangling. Jack, a young son, escaped only because he was away during the carnage. He did, however, arrive home in time to find a gun and put an end to Blackwood’s bloody career. Or so it was universally assumed. Flash forward to the present. John has managed to surmount, or at least sublimate, the horror of his personal tragedy and is now a very effective, much respected homicide detective. He heads his own family—Nicky, the lovely woman he adores and their three smart, likable, if occasionally over-precocious, children. He’s content, his house in order. And then suddenly there’s the advent of Billy Lucas to unnerve him. Billy, currently an inmate in the state hospital, is a 14-year-old confessed mass murderer. A killer that young is of course always unsettling, but Billy turns out to present special problems to John Calvino in that it’s his family he’s done away with, all of them, including two prepubescent sisters, one of whom he first raped. Moreover, he seems to know things about John he couldn’t possibly. Unless…unless what? Unless Blackwood has somehow…but that would be unthinkable.
A good ghost story is all about the suspension of disbelief, which is hampered here by haphazard plotting. Still, Koontz has a pile of unswervingly loyal fans for whom the screw may turn no matter.