Saturday, April 27, 2019

Book Reviews: What The Night Knows

What The Night Knows
by Dean Koontz
I used to be a huge Dean Koontz fan. I picked up this 2010 book in a clearance sale. I liked the plot description and theme. But after reading it I was let down. Now bad Koontz is better than most other writers. However I thought that here one of the typical Koontz formulas (a decent man with a horrible secret must protect his beautiful wife and perfect kids from evil with the help of a loyal dog) ran out of gas. This softcover book was over four hundred and fifty pages. When I read a novel that length I expect something either meaty or epic. This wasn't the case.

It's been a while since I read Koontz so I'd have to go back and check his earlier works but I don't seem to remember his writing being so heavily weighted towards prose and away from dialogue. There's very little dialogue in this book. So the story feels very heavy to me, but not in a good way. YMMV. 

There is an extremely disappointing ending. If we continue after death in some form that could be really wonderful news for those among us who are kind, helpful,and decent people. The flip side is that evil doers could continue their malevolent works.

John Calvino is a dashing thirty-something homicide detective haunted by his family's murders two decades ago. Although John killed the perpetrator, John has never been able to forget the last words of the rapist-murderer, Alton Blackwood. When a young man named Billy Lucas commits atrocities and murders that clearly seem patterned after Blackwood's crimes, John is worried enough to visit Billy in a mental institution even though it's not his case. Billy is mostly uncommunicative but shares some private chilling information with John that Billy simply could not have known.

It's getting close to the anniversary of the murders of John's parents and sisters. John is feeling uneasy. There are some things in his past which he has not shared with his loved ones, out of concern for their emotional and mental wellbeing.

John has a family of his own now, a beautiful successful wife (she paints and earns much more than John) and three young bright happy children: two daughters and a son. 

Over the next few weeks different people commit other murders. These crimes all mimic Blackwood's previous murders. John and his family all experience strange and paranormal events in their home, which has taken on an oppressive presence. John must consider the impossible, that Alton Blackwood is back somehow and intends to fulfill his evil promise. How can John protect his family?

I thought the children were unconvincing characters. Some of their internal thoughts seemed more typical for teenagers, not preteens. Many scares seemed prosaic (shadows in mirrors, closet doors that open or close by themselves). The family was just too perfect. John and his wife had no internal conflicts or differences of opinion. As a result many characters seemed flat. This book is over 400 pages, about half of which are some member of John's family hearing bells in the night or worrying that they saw something under the bed. Repeat and repeat again. 

Half of this book could have been chopped out without hurting the story. 
The story moves about as fast as frozen mud and molasses. Koontz had some critiques of modern society but they felt like intrusive author editorializing, probably because they were. I must repeat that the ending was really bad, so much so that I was angry at myself for soldiering through the previous pages. You win some, you lose some. I still think Koontz's earlier work is masterful but this wasn't. This is not a book you should read imo. FYI there is a fair amount of violence and depravity.
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