The Dead Don’t Talk

But Odd Thomas does,  and in the first of Dean Koontz’ books about him, he talks straight from his fictional heart.

I can’t remember whether or not I’ve written about Koontz before, but whether or not I have, I should say upfront that I do quite enjoy his work. Unfortunately, more often than not, the endings don’t sit well with me. I have come to the conclusion that he struggles with endings, and have found many of them to be cliche, predictable, or just downright silly, to the point of ruining the rest of the book for me. But in Odd Thomas, he pulls off an ending so perfect and heart-wrenching, and with a late-game plot twist of such M. Night Shyamalan proportions that I can easily forgive any past transgressions in terms of endings.

And it’s not just the ending that shines, although it does leave you with a feeling that’s quite indescribable and not at all pleasant (but in the best way possible). The writing throughout is very solid, with a stirring first-person narrative containing a number of smoothly interwoven and subtle breaks of the 4th wall. The descriptions are lush and vivid without straying into the realm of purple prose, and though there was a bit of repetition of earlier stated facts, they were not entirely unwelcome, and did little to detract from the flow of the novel.

The premise of the story is simple enough: Odd Thomas is a young fry cook who has the ability to see the dead. Sometimes they just linger, but other times they come to him for help, whether simply to cross over or to gain some sort of justice. The book starts with a bang, opening up right away with one of the latter spirits appearing to him seeking justice. From then, events only escalate to a suspenseful conclusion that will have even the most die-hard horror/thriller fans on the edges of their seats. The tale almost reads as a cross between Stephen King and Thomas Harris — if, perhaps, Clarice Starling had clairvoyant abilities rather than Hannibal Lecter to guide her.

I won’t get into too much detail, because that’ll ruin the story, but I will say that there are some very surprising events, especially late in the story. Even a veteran reader of horror and thrillers like myself will be caught off-guard. Your mileage may vary, but I found myself staring at the closed book in shock after I finished it. That doesn’t happen to me very often.

I’d certainly recommend Odd Thomas, definitely above other Koontz books that I’ve read — again, I don’t remember what I’ve reviewed, but I’ll just say here that the titles of the others I’ve read were Tick-Tock, Velocity, and Intensity. They were all decent reads, but I’d definitely reach for Odd Thomas before any of them. So if you’re a fan of horror or thriller, or if you’re a fan of Supernatural, because the tone here is similar, though less jovial, I’d suggest giving Odd Thomas a look. At the very least, you’re not likely to regret it, and who knows — you might even become a fan.


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