Thursday, November 29, 2012
Horror Pick: What the Night Knows
by Dean Koontz
Read an excerpt here
An open letter to Dean Koontz:
You totally creep me out! I mean it—I have never been more terrified—What the Night Knows is your creepiest, most fantastical, bizarre, and terrible thing of beauty you have ever written. We have been through a lot over the years and over the many, many books. You were only toying with me with The Face and Dark Rivers of the Heart—playing with comedy through Odd Thomas, Forever Odd, Brother Odd and Odd Hours, introducing me to characters I could love with Seize the Night and Fear Nothing, painstakingly building your craft with The Vision and The Face of Fear, but toying no more, not with this opus—you have me as a fan forever.
What the Night Knows preys upon people’s darkest fears: evil in its most incarnate--evil able to enter anywhere and do anything. Evil that can enter anyone and use them. Evil that can lay dormant in a dwelling and wait. No one can escape it; no one can be saved.
John Calvino is a police detective with a wonderful, loving family, but twenty years ago, he was just a boy when his entire family was murdered by a man named Alton Turner Blackwood—a man with three names—just like all infamous murderers in history. Blackwood is the most savage killer the police have ever seen. Now, it’s twenty years later, and John Calvino discovers a family murdered in exactly the same fashion as twenty years prior. This time, the murderer is fourteen year old Billy Lucas who murders his own family. Calvino visits him at the state hospital to interview Billy. He leaves disturbed by Billy’s answer: “Ruin.”
Dean, the way you built upon the character of each of the children: dear, sweet Zach who wants to be a brave marine someday, fanciful and naïve Naomi who lives in a world of unicorns and wizards, and wonderful, all-knowing, all-seeing Minette, “don’t call me Mouse,” gives the reader hope that this family can be saved. The appearance of their trusty golden retriever Willard is a ray of sunshine that this family can depend upon. The strength of the marriage between Nicolette and John has to--just has to-- survive this ghostly and ghastly peril.
I must say, Dean, you had me at, “What year these events transpired is of no consequence. Where they occurred is not important. The time is always, and the place is everywhere.” This gentle and SCARY reminder that evil is always and everywhere is downright cryptic and horrible. I spent a few toss and turn-y nights while reading What the Night Knows. I slept with the nightlight on, and like Zach, I had a “weapon” at my bedside—although a baseball bat is no match for any ghost demon. I turned on lights before entering darkened rooms and I was careful not to peer too long into any mirrors lest I catch a glimpse of something I really didn’t want to see. I heard noises and thought of an evil so great that it could be anywhere and everywhere. Yeah, Dean, I lost sleep!
Dean Koontz, you are truly the master! I applaud your literary prowess. It’s a huge undertaking to mix a ghost story, a story of evil, a police drama, a fairy tale, a psychological thriller and a murder investigation, yet you do all of this with a deft hand and make the story plausible.
I have always loved your word choice and What the Night Knows is no exception. Just when I think I know your favorite, oft used words like ululation and susurration, you come up with seldom used words. What other writer uses words like louche, outré and effulgent? Reading your prose is a spectacular exercise. You never fail to amaze me.
Oh, and let me comment on your use as dogs as symbols of good. Your short piece written as an homage to Trixie, your beloved golden lab, brought me to tears. Trixie (and Willard) will always be an angel. Kinky Friedman once said that all your pets will come running to greet you in heaven; I know Trixie will be there for you, Dean.
So highly, highly recommended that I will shout it from the rooftops: Read What the Night Knows! Don’t miss this one. You’ll be sorry you did. Any fan of Koontz will love this latest scary tale.
Grade 9 and up. Not suitable for middle school due to adult themes, violence, sex, and language.
FTC Required Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my own reading pleasure. It was a pleasure that scared me nearly to death! I will send this book over to the high school.