Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Review: The Forbidden Door

Author:  Dean Koontz
Series:  Jane Hawk #4
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Publisher:  Random House LLC
Format:  Kindle ARC
Date of Publication:  September 11, 2018
No. of Pages:  480
My rating:  4.5 Stars

Description:

When this relentless rogue FBI agent comes knocking, her adversaries will have to answer—with their lives—in the latest thrilling Jane Hawk novel by the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Silent Corner. 

“We’re rewriting the play, and the play is this country, the world, the future. We break Jane’s heart, we’ll also break her will.” 

She was one of the FBI’s top agents until she became the nation’s most-wanted fugitive. Now Jane Hawk may be all that stands between a free nation and its enslavement by a powerful secret society’s terrifying mind-control technology. She couldn’t save her husband, or the others whose lives have been destroyed, but equipped with superior tactical and survival skills—and the fury born of a broken heart and a hunger for justice—Jane has struck major blows against the insidious cabal.

But Jane’s enemies are about to hit back hard. If their best operatives can’t outrun her, they mean to bring her running to them, using her five-year-old son as bait. Jane knows there’s no underestimating their capabilities, but she must battle her way back across the country to the remote shelter where her boy is safely hidden . . . for now.

As she moves resolutely forward, new threats begin to emerge: a growing number of brain-altered victims driven hopelessly, violently insane. With the madness spreading like a virus, the war between Jane and her enemies will become a fight for all their lives—against the lethal terror unleashed from behind the forbidden door.

Don’t miss any of Dean Koontz’s gripping Jane Hawk thrillers:

THE SILENT CORNER • THE WHISPERING ROOM • THE CROOKED STAIRCASE • THE FORBIDDEN DOOR • THE NIGHT WINDOW (Coming Soon!)


My thoughts:


If you have been reading this series to-date, especially The 3rd book, The Crooked Staircase, be reminded that Jane Hawk was racing to keep her five-year old son Travis out of danger. The Techno Arcadians, a powerful group of extremists with connections to the highest level, have been a major threat to Jane, who is a former FBI agent, but is now the nation’s most wanted fugitive. The group is closer than ever would have been believed possible when the very life of Travis is threatened.  

A bit more about the Techno Arcadians. This group has a far reach, with the end goal of controlling humanity. Their methods are nothing less than terrifying. If you’ve been following this series, then you will see that is patently obvious that they’ve come close to perfecting the brain implants they are doing via injections. This is utterly eerie as they are out for complete control. The victims can and will do horrifying things. It is due to such horrendous actions that have Jane both on the run of her life, all the while striving to save Travis.

It has been months since I read the third book in the series, The Crooked Staircase, but the overwhelming loss of life that has already occurred, as well as the most recent with Travis’s protectors, is utterly fresh in my mind. As in the three previous stories, the danger is ever-present and the action is nonstop. Page after page of nefarious characters and terror are never ending.  

The Forbidden Door is presented to us in six thrilling parts, each getting more captivating as the story intensifies. There was one particular trigger referred to more than once in this series “Uncle Ira is not Ira”. Sound familiar? Remember the novel and film, Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Yes, that. Creepy.

While this chilling story carries you through, there was often heartbreak. It is at this point that I will generally mention two characters who had my heart in a bind, but I am working really hard at not allowing any spoilers into this review. 

While this book may seem long at 480 pages, don’t let that deter you. The chapters are short enough to entice you into continuing to turn pages. So, if you are a Dean Koontz fan, and have been enjoying this stunning series so far, then definitely pick this title up! I can't wait to see what happens with Jane next!

Many thanks to Random House LLC and to NetGalley for this ARC to review in exchange for my honest opinion.

As mentioned, this is the fourth in the Jane Hawk series, which I have reviewed. My Rating: 4.5 Stars

If you have been reading this series to-date, especially The 3rd book, The Crooked Staircase, be reminded that Jane Hawk was racing to keep her five-year old son Travis out of danger. The Techno Arcadians, a powerful group of extremists with connections to the highest level, have been a major threat to Jane, who is a former FBI agent, but is now the nation’s most wanted fugitive. The group is closer than ever would have been believed possible when the very life of Travis is threatened.  

A bit more about the Techno Arcadians. This group has a far reach, with the end goal of controlling humanity. Their methods are nothing less than terrifying. If you’ve been following this series, then you will see that is patently obvious that they’ve come close to perfecting the brain implants they are doing via injections. This is utterly eerie as they are out for complete control. The victims can and will do horrifying things. It is due to such horrendous actions that have Jane both on the run of her life, all the while striving to save Travis.

It has been months since I read the third book in the series, The Crooked Staircase, but the overwhelming loss of life that has already occurred, as well as the most recent with Travis’s protectors, is utterly fresh in my mind. As in the three previous stories, the danger is ever-present and the action is nonstop. Page after page of nefarious characters and terror are never ending.  

The Forbidden Door is presented to us in six thrilling parts, each getting more captivating as the story intensifies. There was one particular trigger referred to more than once in this series “Uncle Ira is not Ira”. Sound familiar? Remember the novel and film, Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Yes, that. Creepy.

While this chilling story carries you through, there was often heartbreak. It is at this point that I will generally mention two characters who had my heart in a bind, but I am working really hard at not allowing any spoilers into this review. 

While this book may seem long at 480 pages, don’t let that deter you. The chapters are short enough to entice you into continuing to turn pages. So, if you are a Dean Koontz fan, and have been enjoying this stunning series so far, then definitely pick this title up! I can't wait to see what happens with Jane next!

Many thanks to Random House LLC and to NetGalley for this ARC to review in exchange for my honest opinion.

Previous review links: 

The Silent Corner - http://robinlovesreading.blogspot.com/2018/05/review-silent-corner.html

The Whispering Room - http://robinlovesreading.blogspot.com/2018/05/the-whispering-room-by-dean-koontz-my.html

The Crooked Staircase - http://robinlovesreading.blogspot.com/2018/05/the-crooked-staircase-by-dean-koontz.html


Please enjoy the following excerpt:  

Chapter 1

AT FIRST THE BREEZE WAS NO MORE THAN A LONG sigh, breathing through the Texas high country as though expressing some sadness attendant to Nature herself.

They were sitting in the fresh air, in the late-afternoon light, because they assumed that the house was bugged, that anything they said within its rooms would be monitored in real time.

Likewise, they trusted neither the porches nor the barn, nor the horse stables.

When they had something important to discuss, they retreated to the redwood lawn chairs under the massive oak tree in the backyard, facing a flatness of grassland that rolled on to the distant horizon and, for all that the eye could tell, continued to eternity.

As Sunday afternoon became evening, Ancel and Clare Hawk sat in those chairs, she with a martini, he with Macallan Scotch over ice, steeling themselves for an upcoming television program they didn’t want to watch but that might change their

“What bombshell can they be talking about?” Clare wondered.

“It’s TV news,” Ancel said. “They pitch most every story like it’ll shake the foundations of the world. It’s how they sell soap.”

Clare watched him as he stared out at the deep, trembling grass and the vastness of sky as if he never tired of them and saw some new meaning in them every time he gave them his attention. A big man with a weathered face and work-scarred hands, he looked as if his heart might be as hard as bone, though she’d never known one more tender.

After thirty-four years of marriage, they had endured hardships and shared many successes. But now—and perhaps for as long as they yet might have together—their lives were defined by one blessing and one unbearable loss, the birth of their only child, Nick, and his death at the age of thirty-two, the previous November.

Clare said, “I’m feeling like it’s more than selling soap, like it’s some vicious damn twist of the knife.”

Ancel reached out with his left hand, which she held tightly. “We thought it all out, Clare. We have plans. We’re ready for

“I’m not ready to lose Jane, too. I’ll never be ready.”

“It won’t happen. They’re who they are, she’s who she is, and I’d put my money on her every time.”

Just when the faded-denim sky began to darkle toward sapphire overhead and took upon itself a glossy sheen, the breeze quickened and set the oak tree to whispering.

Their daughter-in-law, Jane Hawk, who was as close to them as any real daughter might have been, had recently been indicted for espionage, treason, and seven counts of murder, crimes that she hadn’t committed. She would be the sole subject of this evening’s Sunday Magazine, a one-hour TV program that rarely devoted more than ten minutes to a profile of anyone, either president or pop singer. The most-wanted fugitive in America and a media sensation, Jane was labeled “the beautiful monster” by the tabloids, a cognomen used in promos for the forthcoming special edition of Sunday Magazine.

Ancel said, “Her indictment by some misled grand jury, now this TV show, all the noise about it . . . you realize what it must

“Nothing good.”

“Well, but I think she’s got evidence that’ll destroy the sons of bitches, and they know she’s got it. They’re desperate. If she finds a reporter or someone in the Bureau who maybe she can

“She tried before. The bigger the story, the fewer people she can trust. And this is as big as a story

“They’re desperate,” Ancel insisted. “They’re throwin’ all they got at her, tryin’ to turn the whole country against her, make her a monster no one’ll ever believe.”

“And what then?” Clare worried. “How does she have any hope if the whole country’s against her?”

“Because it won’t be.”

“I don’t know how you can be so sure.”

“The way they demonize her, this hysteria they ginned up in the media—it’s too much piled on top of too much. People sense it.”

“Those who know her, but that’s not a world.”

“People all over, they’re talkin’ about what the real story might be, whether maybe she’s bein’ set up.”

“What people? All over where?”

“All over the Internet.”

“Since when do you spend five minutes on the Internet?”

“Since this latest with her.”

The sun appeared to roll below the horizon, although in fact the horizon rolled away from the sun. In the instant when all the remaining light of day was indirect across the red western sky, the breeze quickened again and became a wind aborning, as if all were a clockwork.

As the looser leaves of the live oak were shaken down, Clare let go of Ancel’s hand and covered her glass, and he shielded his.

There was no privacy in the house, and they weren’t finished counseling each other in matters of grief and hope, preparing for the affront that would be the TV program. The wind brought the dark, and the dark brought a chill, but the sea of stars was a work of wonder and a source of solace.

Chapter 2

TEN MILES FROM HAWK RANCH, EGON GOTTFREY heads the operation to take Ancel and Clare Hawk into custody and ensure their fullest cooperation in the search for their daughter-in-law.

Well, custody is too formal a word. Each member of Gottfrey’s team carries valid Department of Homeland Security credentials. They also possess valid ID for the NSA and the FBI, though they work at those two agencies only on paper. They receive three salaries and earn three pensions, ostensibly to preserve and defend the United States, while in fact working for the revolution. The leaders of the revolution make sure that their foot soldiers are well rewarded by the very system they are intent on overthrowing. Because of Egon Gottfrey’s successful career in Homeland, he was approached to join the Techno Arcadians, the visionaries who conduct the secret revolution. He is now one of them. And why not? He doesn’t believe in the United States anyway.

The Techno Arcadians will change the world. They will pacify contentious humanity, end poverty, create Utopia through technology.

Or so the Unknown Playwright would have us believe.

The Hawks will not be arrested. Gottfrey and his crew will take possession of them. Neither attorneys nor courts will be involved.

Having arrived in Worstead, Texas, shortly after four o’clock in the afternoon, Egon Gottfrey is bored by the town within half an hour of checking into the Holiday Inn.

In 1896, when this jerkwater became a center through which the region’s farms and ranches shipped their products to market, it had been called Sheepshear Station, because of the amount of baled wool that passed through on the way to textile mills.

That’s the story, and there’s no point in questioning it.

By 1901, when the town was incorporated, the founders felt that the name Sheepshear Station wasn’t sophisticated enough to match their vision of the future. Besides, snarky types routinely called it Sheepshit Station. It was then named Worstead, after Worstede, the parish in Norfolk, England, where worsted wool was first made.

Anyway, that’s what Gottfrey is supposed to believe.

More than fourteen thousand rustic citizens now call it home.

Whatever they call it, Egon Gottfrey finds it to be a thin vision of a place, incomplete in its detail, much like an artist’s pencil study done before proceeding to oil paints. But every place feels like that to him.

The streets aren’t shaded. The only trees are in the park in the town square, as if there is a limited budget for stage dressing.

Near sunset, he walks the downtown area, where the buildings mostly have flat roofs with parapets, the kind behind which villains and sheriffs alike crouch to fire on each other in a thousand old movies. Many structures are of locally quarried limestone or rust-colored sand-struck brick. The sameness and plainness don’t allow the chamber of commerce to call the architecture quaint.

At Julio’s Steakhouse, where the bar extends onto an elevated and roofed patio overlooking the street, Paloma Sutherland and Sally Jones, two of the agents under Gottfrey’s command, having come in from Dallas, are precisely where they are supposed to be, enjoying a drink at a street-side table. They make eye contact as he passes.

And in the park, on a bench, Rupert Baldwin is studying a newspaper. Wearing Hush Puppies and a roomy corduroy suit and a beige shirt and a bolo tie with an ornamental turquoise clasp, he looks like some nerdy high school biology teacher, but he is tough and ruthless.

As Gottfrey walks past, Rupert only clears his throat.

On another bench sits Vince Penn, half as wide as he is tall, with a flat face and the big hands of a natural-born strangler.

Vince holds a handful of pebbles. Now and then, he throws one of the stones with wicked accuracy, targeting the unwary squirrels that have been conditioned by Worstead locals to trust people.

South of the park stands a two-star mom-and-pop motel, Purple Sage Inn, as unconvincing as any location in town.

Parked in front of Room 12 is a bespoke Range Rover created by Overfinch North America, a vehicle with major performance upgrades, a carbon-fiber styling package, and a dual-valve titanium exhaust system; it’s a recent perk for certain members of the revolution. The Range Rover means Gottfrey’s two most senior agents—Christopher Roberts and Janis Dern—have checked in.

Counting Egon Gottfrey and the two men who are at this moment conducting surveillance of the entrance to Hawk Ranch, ten miles east of Worstead, the team of nine is complete.

In this operation, they are not using burner phones, not even Midland GXT walkie-talkies, which are often useful. In some parts of the country, Texas being one, there are too many paranoid fools who think elements of the government and certain industries conspire in wicked schemes; some are in law enforcement or were in the military, and they spend countless hours monitoring microwave transmissions for evidence to confirm their wild suspicions.

Or so the Unknown Playwright would have us believe.

As Gottfrey continues his walk through town, no longer to confirm the presence of his team, merely to pass time, the sinking sun floods the streets with crimson light. The once-pale limestone buildings are now radiant by reflection, but they appear to be built of translucent onyx lit from within. The very air is aglow, as if all the light in the invisible spectrum—infrared and other—is beginning to manifest to the eye, as though the illusion that is the world will burst and reveal what lies under this so-called reality.

Egon Gottfrey is not merely a nihilist who believes there is no meaning in life. He’s a radical philosophical nihilist who contends that there is no possibility of an objective basis for truth, and therefore no such thing as truth, but also that the entire world and his existence—everyone’s existence—are a fantasy, a vivid delusion.

The world is as ephemeral as a dream, each moment of the day but a mirage within an infinite honeycomb of mirages. The only thing about himself that he can say exists, with certainty, is his mind wrapped in the illusion of his physical body. He thinks; therefore, he is. But his body, his life, his country, and his world are all illusion.

On embracing this view of the human condition, a lesser mind might have gone mad, surrendering to despair. Gottfrey has remained sane by playing along with the illusion that is the world, as if it is a stage production for an unknowable audience, as if he is an actor in a drama for which he’s never seen a script. It’s marionette theater. He is a marionette, and he’s okay with that.

He’s okay with it for two reasons, the first of which is that he has a sharply honed curiosity. He is his own fanboy, eager to see what will happen to him next.

Second, Gottfrey likes his role as a figure of authority with power over others. Even though it all means nothing, even though he has no control over events, just goes along to get along, it is far better to be one through whom the Unknown Playwright wields power rather than to be one on whom that power is brought to bear.

Chapter 3

THE ROOM ILLUMINED ONLY BY THE NETHERWORLD glow of the TV, the vaguest reflections of moving figures on the screen throbbing across the walls like spectral presences . . .

Ancel sitting stiffly in his armchair, stone-faced in response to Sunday Magazine’s lies and distortions, the program mirrored in his gray eyes . . . Clare couldn’t stay in her chair, couldn’t just watch and listen and do nothing. She got up and paced, talking back to the screen: “Bullshit” and “Liar” and “You hateful bastard.”

This was nothing like any previous edition of Sunday Magazine. Always before it had avoided both puff pieces and vitriolic attacks, striving for balance, at times almost highbrow. But this. This was the worst kind of tabloid exploitation and alarmism. This special, “The Beautiful Monster,” had one intention—to paint Jane as an evil angel, a traitor to her country, who wasn’t only capable of horrific violence but who also perhaps took pleasure in wanton murder.

At the half-hour break, the program host teased the blockbuster revelation that they had been selling in the promos for days. In a portentous voice, he promised to feature it in the next segment.

As the first commercial played, Clare perched on a footstool and closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around herself, chilled. “What is this, Ancel? This isn’t journalism, not one iota of it.”

“Character assassination. Propaganda. These people she’s up against, they’re veins of rot runnin’ through government and tech companies, hell-bent to destroy her before she can tell her story.”

“You think people are still going to defend her after this?”

“I do, Clare. These fools are hammerin’ too hard, makin’ her out to be some girl version of Dracula and Charles Manson and Benedict Arnold rolled into one.”

“A lot of stupid people will believe it,” Clare worried.

“Some stupid. Some gullible. Not everyone. Maybe not most.”

She said, “I don’t want to watch any more of this.”

“Neither do I. But that’s not a choice, is it? We’re one with Jane. They blow up her life, they blow up ours. We’ve got to see what’s left of us when this show is done.”

After the break, Sunday Magazine harked back to Jane’s photo taken on completion of her Bureau training at Quantico, where she’d met Nick when he was assigned to Corps Combat Development Command at the same base. There were wedding photographs: Nick in his Marine dress uniform, Jane in a simple white bridal gown. Such a stunning couple.

Seeing her lost son and his bride so happy, so vibrant, Clare was overcome with emotion.

The narration moved to film of Nick receiving the Navy Cross, which was one step below the Medal of Honor, Jane looking on with such love and pride.

Clare got up from the footstool and went to Ancel and sat on the arm of his chair and put a hand on his shoulder, and he put a hand on her knee and squeezed and said, “I know.”

The narrator began to talk of Nick’s suicide the previous November. He and Jane had been at home in Alexandria, Virginia, preparing dinner, having a little wine. Their boy, Travis, was on a sleepover with another five-year-old in the neighborhood, so that his parents might have a romantic evening. Nick went to the bathroom . . . and didn’t return. Jane found him clothed, sitting in the bathtub. With his Marine-issue combat knife, he’d cut his neck deeply enough to sever a carotid artery. He left a note, the first sentence in his neat cursive, which deteriorated thereafter: Something is wrong with me. I need. I very much need. I very much need to be dead. More than four months had passed since that devastating call from Jane. Clare’s tears now were as hot as her tears then.

“That,” the narrator solemnly intoned, “was Jane Hawk’s story, and the investigation by the Alexandria police confirmed every detail. In the days following Nick’s death, friends say Jane became obsessed with what she believed was an inexplicable rise in suicides nationwide. She discovered that thousands of happy, accomplished people like her husband, none with a history of depression, were taking their lives for no apparent reason. On leave from the FBI, so deep in grief that friends worried for her mental health, she began to research this disturbing trend, which soon consumed her.”

Suddenly it seemed that the tenor of the show might change, that all the terrible things said about Jane in the first half hour might be considered from a more sympathetic perspective, raising doubts about the official portrayal of her as traitorous and cruel.

The program turned to a university professor, an expert in suicide prevention. He claimed that nothing was unusual about the increase in suicides over the past two years, that the rate always fluctuated. He claimed that the percentage of affluent, apparently happy people killing themselves was still within normal parameters.

“That can’t be right,” Clare said.

Next came an expert in criminal psychology, a woman with hair pulled tightly back in a chignon, as lean as a whippet, eyes owlish behind black-framed round lenses, wearing a severely tailored suit that matched the severity of her manner as she discussed what was known of the subject’s difficult childhood.

Jane. A piano prodigy from the age of four. Daughter of the famous pianist Martin Duroc. Some said Duroc was demanding, distant. Jane was estranged from him. Her mother, also a talented pianist, had committed suicide. Nine-year-old Jane had discovered the bloody body in a bathtub. A year later, Duroc remarried in spite of his daughter’s objection. A decade thereafter, Jane declined a full scholarship to Oberlin, rejected a music career, finished four years of college in three, and sought a life in law enforcement.

“And it’s intriguing to consider her six years at the FBI,” the psychologist said. As the camera moved close on her face to capture the pale solemnity of her expression, she lowered her voice as if imparting a confidence. “During her time in the Bureau, Jane was assigned to cases under the purview of Behavioral Analysis Units Three and Four, which deal with mass murderers and serial killers. She participated in ten investigations with eight resolutions. For a young woman who might have a long-harbored grudge against men, being immersed in the world of murderous male sociopaths, required to think like them in order to find and apprehend them, the experience could have had profound traumatic effects on her psychology.” Clare shuddered with a sense of some abomination coming. She rose from the arm of Ancel’s chair. “What the hell does that mean?”

On the screen now: J. J. Crutchfield. The narrator recounted the sordid story of this killer who had kept the eyes of his women victims in jars of preservative. Jane had wounded and captured him.

And now: narration over video of the isolated farm where two vicious men had raped and murdered twenty-two girls. Here the agent working the case with Jane had been shot to death, and it had fallen to her, alone in the night, to counter-stalk the two murderers who were stalking her. She had taken out both of them, killing the second in the cellar rape room where the victims had been killed, before they were buried in the former hog pen.

More video from that night, outside the farmhouse, after the police arrived. Jane conferring with officers in the crosslight of patrol cars, strikingly beautiful, like an avenging goddess, but hair wild, her uplit face made subtly ominous by a mascara of shadows.

Sunday Magazine froze the video on a close-up that did not deny her beauty but that suggested . . . What? A disturbing hardness about her? A potential for cruelty? Madness?

Walking along a street in Alexandria, the town where Nick and Jane had lived, the program host addressed the camera. “How thin is the line between heroism and villainy?”

“Don’t be stupid,” Clare said. “They aren’t separated by a thin line. They’re different countries, an ocean apart.”

Ancel sat silent and grim-faced.

“When a good person,” the host said, “badly damaged by profound childhood trauma, for too long is immersed in the dark world of serial killers . . . might she lose her way?”

He stopped in front of the Alexandria police headquarters.

“After the events of recent weeks that have made Jane Hawk front-page news, the police department that originally certified her husband’s death a suicide has quietly reopened the case. The body has been exhumed. A subsequent autopsy and extensive toxicological tests reveal that Nicholas Hawk had a powerful sedative in his system and that the angle and nature of the lethal cut in his neck are not consistent with a self-administered knife wound.”

Clare felt cold in heart and blood and bone. Such a world of deceit. Such bold, shameless lies. Nick’s remains had been cremated. Only his ashes were buried in Arlington National Cemetery. There was no body to exhume.

Chapter 4

SUNDAY MAGAZINE WAS NOT ON JANE’S RADAR.

Hours earlier, she had survived an ordeal near Lake Tahoe that had almost been the end of her, leaving her shaken and desolate. She had obtained evidence of murder that might help her break open the conspiracy that had taken Nick’s life and so many others, but she’d gotten it at considerable emotional, psychological, and moral cost.

Through a cold day darkened by storm clouds, blinded by torrents of snow, she drove south, then west, out of the Sierra Nevada, out of the blizzard—and, after many miles, out of that darkness of spirit, into grace and gratitude for her survival.

In Placerville, she paid cash for one night at a generic motel, using her Elizabeth Bennet driver’s license as ID, because she was wearing the chopped-everywhichway black wig and excess makeup and blue lipstick that made her Liz.

She bought deli sandwiches and a pint of vodka at a nearby market and got Coca-Cola and ice from the motel vending alcove and took a shower as hot as she could tolerate and ate the sandwiches while sitting in bed, listening to Mariah Carey on the radio. She drank a vodka-and-Coke and was finishing her second drink, grateful to be alive, when her burner phone rang.

She intended to call Gavin and Jessica Washington down in eastern Orange County, the friends with whom she had secreted her son, Travis, the only place in the world where he was not likely to be found. If the boy fell into the hands of her enemies, they would kill him because they knew that his death would at last break her. When the disposable phone rang, she thought it must be Gavin or Jessie; no one else had the number.

But it was Travis. “Mommy? Uncle Gavin and Aunt Jessie went for groceries, and they never came back.”

Jane swung her legs off the bed, stood, and felt as if she were standing for the attention of a hangman, a noose tight around her neck and a trapdoor under her feet. At once she sat down, dizzy with dread.

He had been with Gavin and Jessie for more than two months. If something happened to them, he was alone. Five years old and alone.

Her heart as loud as a cortege drum, but much faster than the meter of mourning, reverberating in blood and bone . . .

Travis was a little toughie, being strong like he knew his dad would have been, scared but self-controlled. Jane was able to get the situation from him. Gavin and Jessie had realized they were under surveillance, had somehow been connected to Jane. In their Land Rover, with Travis and their two German shepherds, they’d escaped from their house into the dark desert hills. They were pursued—“This crazy-big truck and like even a helicopter, Mom, a helicopter that could see us in the dark”—but they avoided capture. They drove to a bolt-hole, long ago approved by Jane, in the Borrego Valley, south of Borrego Springs. After settling in a small house on acreage owned by a man named Cornell Jasperson, Gavin shaved his head and Jessie changed her appearance with a wig and makeup, and they went into town to buy supplies. They meant to be back in two hours. Eight had now passed.

They must be dead. They would not have allowed themselves to be captured, and they would never have shirked their responsibility to look after Travis. Gavin and Jessie were ex-Army, two of the best and most reliable people Jane had ever known.

She’d loved them like a brother and sister before she’d left her child in their care, and she loved them yet more for their unfailing commitment to Travis. Even in these dark times of so much terror and death, when each day brought new threats and sorrows, new shocks to mind and heart, she had not become inured to loss. This one pierced her, a psychic bullet that would have dropped her into tears and numbing grief if her child had not been in such jeopardy.

She didn’t tell Travis they were dead. She could discern by the catch in his voice that he suspected as much, but there was nothing to be gained by confirming his fear. She needed to project calm and confidence, to give him reason for courage.

“Where are you, sweetheart? In the house where they left you?”

If he was still in the house where Gavin and Jessie had meant to hole up with him, he was more likely to be found sooner.

“No. Me and the dogs, we walked over to Cornell’s place like we were supposed to if there was trouble.”

Cornell lived off the grid. He was not likely to be linked to Gavin and Jessie soon. Travis might be safe there for two or three days, though not much longer. The word might was a gut punch.

“Honey, you’ll be safe with the dogs and Cornell until I can come for you. I will come for you, sweetie. Nothing can stop me.”

“I know. I know you will.”

“Are you all right with Cornell?”

“He’s kind of weird, but he’s nice.”

Cornell was a brilliant eccentric whose eccentricities were complicated by a mild form of autism.

“There’s no reason to be afraid of Cornell. You do what he tells you, sweetie, and I’ll come for you just as soon as I can.”

“Okay. I can’t wait, but I will.”

“We can’t talk even on burner phones again. It’s too dangerous now. But I’ll come for you.” She got to her feet and was steady this time. “Nobody ever loved anyone more than I love you, Travis.”

“Me, too. I miss you all the time a lot. Do you have the lady I gave you?”
< The lady was a cameo, the face of a broken locket that he had found and that he thought important because, to his mind if not to hers, the profile carved in soapstone resembled Jane.

It was on the nightstand with other objects—switchblade, butane lighter, penlight, small canister of Sabre 5.0 pepper spray, four zip-ties each held in tight coils by a rubber band—the tools and simple weapons and instruments of restraint that she had cleaned out of the pockets of her sport coat before hanging it up. Plucking the cameo off the nightstand, she said, “It’s in my hand right now.”

“It’s good luck. It’s like everything is gonna be all right if you just always have the lady.”

“I know, baby. I have her. I’ll never lose her. Everything will be all right.”


About the author:

When he was a senior in college, Dean Koontz won an Atlantic Monthly fiction competition and has been writing ever since. His books are published in 38 languages and he has sold over 500 million copies to date.

Fourteen of his novels have risen to number one on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list (One Door Away From Heaven, From the Corner of His Eye, Midnight, Cold Fire, The Bad Place, Hideaway, Dragon Tears, Intensity, Sole Survivor, The Husband, Odd Hours, Relentless, What the Night Knows, and 77 Shadow Street), making him one of only a dozen writers ever to have achieved that milestone. Sixteen of his books have risen to the number one position in paperback. His books have also been major bestsellers in countries as diverse as Japan and Sweden.

The New York Times has called his writing “psychologically complex, masterly and satisfying.” The New Orleans Times-Picayune said Koontz is, “at times lyrical without ever being naive or romantic. [He creates] a grotesque world, much like that of Flannery O’Conner or Walker Percy … scary, worthwhile reading.” Rolling Stone has hailed him as “America’s most popular suspense novelist.”

Dean Koontz was born and raised in Pennsylvania. He graduated from Shippensburg State College (now Shippensburg University), and his first job after graduation was with the Appalachian Poverty Program, where he was expected to counsel and tutor underprivileged children on a one-to-one basis. His first day on the job, he discovered that the previous occupier of his position had been beaten up by the very kids he had been trying to help and had landed in the hospital for several weeks. The following year was filled with challenge but also tension, and Koontz was more highly motivated than ever to build a career as a writer. He wrote nights and weekends, which he continued to do after leaving the poverty program and going to work as an English teacher in a suburban school district outside Harrisburg. After a year and a half in that position, his wife, Gerda, made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: “I’ll support you for five years,” she said, “and if you can’t make it as a writer in that time, you’ll never make it.” By the end of those five years, Gerda had quit her job to run the business end of her husband’s writing career.

Dean Koontz lives in Southern California with his wife, Gerda, their golden retriever, Elsa, and the enduring spirit of their goldens, Trixie and Anna.

Links:  Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram 


19 comments:

  1. Despite my dislike of the Horror genre, I have always liked Dean Koontz and have heard great things about this series.I need to get on and read it.

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    1. I do not read horror either and used to love his work. I am so glad that he is writing this series!

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  2. Great review! I haven't read this series, but I've heard a lot of great things about Dean Koontz' writing. I'll have to check it out.

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  3. His books really scare me as they seem quite possible, I haven't read one in ages but you have me rethinking that ;)

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    1. For the first time in a long while for his writing, it isn’t horror.

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  4. I really liked this one, good review!

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    1. I know your TBR pile has to be as high as mine, but I do hope you can fit this in.

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  6. Great review! This sounds really good!

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  7. I love Dean Koontz. I have many unread on my shelf that I need to get to.

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  8. I used to love Koontz books when I was younger, I went off scary reading as I got older, but this series sounds fascinating! Great review!

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    1. Thanks. This book and series is not horror, thankfully.

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  9. Great review, I have a few Dean Koontz books on my tbr list but I have not read them yet. But I really do love reading Dean Koontz books too, and this series looks and sounds like a really great one. Thank you so much for sharing your awesome post Robin.

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