I’ve been reading Koontz’s books since I was a kid. Of course, I didn’t know the books I was reading by Leigh Nichols, Aaron Wolfe, Brian Coffey, David Axton, Owen West, Richard Paige, and various others were actually written by Dean Koontz until a few years back. I have always enjoyed his books, and he actually surpassed S. King as my favorite author a few years ago. But, it wasn’t until From the Corner of His Eye that I started to notice a deeper, even spiritual, element to his suspense-filled stories.
Character development has been one of my favorite components of his books since I started reading Koontz on a regular basis. His strong female protagonists, inclusion of a lovable dog in most of his books, and regular positive endings always leave me with a feeling that all is right with the world upon finishing one of his novels.
Koontz’s latest book, The Darkest Evening of the Year, is no different. It was obvious from the dedication and About the Author page, that his beloved golden retriever, Trixie, had passed on to the other side. It seems that this book was written to help Koontz deal with his grief from losing a dear friend.
The tale focuses on Amy Redwing. Amy loves all dogs, and spends her time and money rescuing golden retrievers. Although her turbulent past is an important part of who she is (and what direction the story takes), we have no idea in what capacity until close to the end of the book.
Amy’s boyfriend, Brian, a good-hearted and supportive architect, is always ready to help Amy on her many dog-saving missions, regardless of the danger involved. Brian has a few skeletons in his closet as well.
The story opens with Amy and Brian rescuing a mother, children, and dog from an abusive husband and father. The dog, a golden retriever named Nickie, is extraordinary for many reasons. Much of the fun of reading the story is finding out why.
The antagonists of the story are insane, as is often the case with Koontz’s stories. Moongirl and Harrow are as evil and repulsive as Amy and Brian are good and beloved.
The story builds and climbs toward the connection and inescapable encounter of these two couples, the rescue of a little girl with the name of Piggy, and Nickie’s heavenly guidance of it all.
As is always the case when completing a good novel, I finished with the feeling that I was leaving behind some good friends. Fortunately, Dean Koontz sometimes takes us back into the lives of our favorite characters: Odd Thomas, for instance. I’m looking forward to reading more about Odd this May in Odd Hours and again in June with In Odd We Trust.
Koontz, Dean. The Darkest Evening of the Year. NY: Bantam Books, 2007