Saturday, March 31, 2012

77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz - Spooky Slight of Hand

(Disclosure: I received a review copy of the British edition of 77 Shadow Street. This look inside includes mild spoilers, though no more than the Amazon entry on The House of Thunder.)

Things are always incredible, but an ah-ha is usually in store somewhere in the pages of a Dean Koontz thriller. A slow reveal often twists and explains seemingly supernatural events in a rational or scientific manor, or there's an inversion you weren't expecting.

77 Shadow Street, his latest novel, features many Koontz hallmarks juggled into new alignment. It's a standout among his recent offerings, though Koontz novels never fail to entertain.

When the book opens, odd things are going on at the luxury apartment building known as the Pembleton, conveniently located at the title address. Could you expect less than strangeness if you were living on Shadow Street?

In the opening, a drunken ex-Senator boards an elevator for his floor only to be whisked to a basement of terror. We're talking Buffy-style hell mouth.

Then Bailey Hawks, one of the protagonists, is menaced by a strange creature in the swimming pool, and retired attorney and Pembleton expert Silas Kinsley is awakened by a building tremor.

Odd voices are heard in apartments and hallways, and soon an assemblage of distinct Koontz characters are seeing Victorian-era people appearing from nowhere, more odd creepy crawlies and shimmers of blue electricity pulsing from ceilings and floors.

The Characters
Bailey, a financial advisor with a military background to give him heroic cred, almost takes a back seat to Shadow Street's eccentrics.

Mickey Dime is among the most notable, an assassin who's psychologically scarred by his upbringing. His mom was a rigid and stoic intellectual more focused on self aggrandizing than true philosophizing. You can speculate on who she might be based on. He's a bit like the villain from Koontz's The Husband, whose inspiration can also be a fun speculation game.

A novelist, a country songwriter, elderly female entrepreneurs, an autistic girl who communicates using the novel Bambi and a precocious young introvert round things out.

Their paces
Koontz keeps his band busy once the set-up is complete, and about mid-book answers begin to come as more devilish doings unfold.

To say more would really be unfair if you're going to pick this up, but I will note what you probably think's going on ain't what's going on. But then, if you're a Koontz reader, you'll know that.

With rumblings of Crichton and Vonnegut, the author delivers a page-turning and thrilling tale with a mask-off scene in the final pages that delivers the payoff. That makes up for perhaps just a bit of a fizzle in the climactic action. 

Overall, this is my favorite Koontz book since Life Expectancy. Koontz is a master story craftsman, and it's always fun to experience his latest effort.


Charles Gramlich said...

After reading Breathless by Koontz lately, and not liking it, I swore off Koontz. He is such a talented writer, though, that I doubt I'll be able to keep that. I may have to try this one. Good to hear he's returned to form.

Sidney said...

Yeah, Breathless and some of those similarly-titled books kind of form a different strand of his writing. Some of the books like Shadow Street that you know come from from his roots as a science fiction writer, to me, are more the top of his form.

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