The Darkest Evening Of The Year By Dean Koontz
If you read my last couple of Koontz reviews you’ll know I was pretty disappointed with The husband, but felt some of the spark returning when I read The Good Guy. So it was that I bought Darkest Evening of the Year on release date, and despite a busy schedule made the time to read the first few chapters, feeling strangely that this book was going to pack the punch that had been lacking in Koontz's previous two offerings.
I’m happy to say I was not wrong! The Darkest Evening of the Year sees Dean Koontz back on form as far as I am concerned, with a spooky and mysterious novel that I was happy to lose myself in over a few nights (I used to read such books over 1 or 2 sittings, but circumstances are different at the moment!). In any case, I was hooked on the plotline, and was pulled forward into the narrative, wanting to know what happened next, and somewhat seduced by Koontz’s sharp, crystal-crafted prose (whatever criticisms are levelled at Koontz, his descriptive powers are second to none)
So, what is the story about? Central character, with a mysterious past, Amy Redwing, dedicates her life to saving endangered Golden Retrievers, and has founded an organisation for just this purpose. Even among dog lovers, she’s a legend for the risks she’ll take to save an animal. One night she ends up at a home where an abusive drunk is doing his thing with wife and daughter, and offers him a large sum for the dog, as the wife and kid are getting out of there - in fact Amy puts herself at considerable risk, but there appears to be an immediate and uncanny bond between this new dog, Christened Nickie, and Amy.
But these happy dog rescuing events are thrown into doubt by some sinister and eerie incidents. An ominous stranger is following Amy, and her home is invaded and robbed of certain items - it appears Amy’s mysterious past may be catching up with her, and her boyfriend Brian has secrets of his own too. As the story progresses, the mystery unravels chapter by chapter, and it was this rush of wanting me to find out what was behind it all that kept me turning the pages.
This novel has a lot of stuff going on, twisted plotlines, shocking events - random murder, sexual perversion, child torture and infanticide; but somehow the characters of Amy and Nickie the Golden retriever offer some kind of redemption. I will not be forgetting the supremely evil but beautiful Moon Girl in a hurry, one of the baddest girls I’ve come across in a book for a while, and the cold and merciless Harrow also makes the blood run cold. There’s also a strange hybrid character in the form of Billy Pilgrim, who despite being a cold blooded cynical killer, also appears eminently likeable in a lot of ways, and I love one bit where Koontz, highly aware of plenty of recent criticism on the boards and book reviews sites, muses through the character on some of the benefits of not having become a writer, which was the killer’s initial ambition
The novel does suffer slightly, I feel from an ending that seems rather rushed, and the introduction of deus ex machina may detract from its success to an extent (then again it is nice to see the supernatural element return to Koontz, where it belongs) but like they say, it’s the journey, not the destination that matters, and Dean Koontz’s The Darkest Evening of the Year took me on a narrative ride that I haven’t enjoyed so much in ages.
Just one word of warning, if you don’t like dogs, and have a gripe against dog lovers, this may not quite be the book for you!