WHAT THE NIGHT KNOWS by Dean Koontz
Dean Koontz returns to some of his early roots in his latest novel, a supernatural thriller, What The Night Knows. Homicide Detective John Calvino has his own reasons for investigating why 14 year old Billy Lucas murdered his family, but the author holds back that information as part of a string of mysteries that lure the reader in.
If I hadn’t read a review somewhere that mentioned there was a big supernatural element in the novel, I wouldn’t have known it from the opening pages. The interview with Billy Lucas is chilling and suspenseful, and I wanted to know why he murdered his family as well. Unfortunately, even though we later discover that Billy wasn’t truly in control of himself, which leads us to the supernatural element, I wasn’t truly satisfied with the reasons why Alton Turner Blackwood turned to serial killing either.
Koontz makes a strong case for Blackwood’s disturbed nature through journal entries in the novel. Very twisted stuff, but believable. Then the author throws in the complication of the supernatural powers, which may or may not have been necessary. Somewhere along the line, the willing suspension of disbelief was broken. There was just one thing too many.
The novel’s pacing is engrossing at the start, but comes almost to a standstill in the middle section. The story branches off here from Calvino, whom I enjoyed a lot, to the rest of the members of his family: his artist wife and his three kids. The story, and the tension, almost got diffused, but he rallies toward the end to bring it all together.
Another thing that continues to bother me in Koontz’s books is the way he characterizes children. A Koontz child, and maybe there should be a paper presented on them at some time, is always too polite, too well-behaved, and too intelligent and deep thinking to be a child. They’re almost perfect adults, just in smaller bodies. Koontz doesn’t quite have a handle on the things they’re interested in either. As a father of five, those scenes just kept ringing false time and time again.
Another facet of a Koontz plot of late is the weird ability of the youngest and most innocent member of a family to somehow create the very thing that’s needed to save the day. There’s no hint of this arcane knowledge in this book (or in the recent Relentless) and the life-saving devices are made out of unbelievable things. In this novel, the device is constructed of LEGOS.
I got through the book okay, and even enjoyed the closing sequences (stumbling through the hokey divine device) but the book never quite claims the initial terror and fascination of the early scenes. The pacing is well done, flipping back and forth to accelerate the growing danger and then unleashing the action on several fronts. This book is one the fans will enjoy, but someone new to Koontz might not be as generous.