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The Darkest Evening of the Yearby Dean Koontz
Synopses & Reviews
With each of his #1 New York Times bestsellers, Dean Koontz has displayed an unparalleled ability to entertain and enlighten readers with novels that capture the essence of our times even as they bring us to the edge of our seats. Now he delivers a heart-gripping tour de force he's been waiting years to write, at once a love story, a thrilling adventure, and a masterwork of suspense that redefines the boundaries of primal fear — and of enduring devotion.
Amy Redwing has dedicated her life to the southern California organization she founded to rescue abandoned and endangered golden retrievers. Among dog lovers, she's a legend for the risks she'll take to save an animal from abuse. Among her friends, Amy's heedless devotion is often cause for concern. To widower Brian McCarthy, whose commitment she can't allow herself to return, Amy's behavior is far more puzzling and hides a shattering secret.
No one is surprised when Amy risks her life to save Nickie, nor when she takes the female golden into her home. The bond between Amy and Nickie is immediate and uncanny. Even her two other goldens, Fred and Ethel, recognize Nickie as special, a natural alpha. But the instant joy Nickie brings is shadowed by a series of eerie incidents. An ominous stranger. A mysterious home invasion.
And the unmistakable sense that someone is watching Amy's every move and that, whoever it is, he's not alone.
Someone has come back to turn Amy into the desperate, hunted creature she's always been there to save. But now there's no one to save Amy and those she loves. From its breathtaking opening scene to its shocking climax, The Darkest Evening of the Year is Dean Koontz at his finest, a transcendent thriller certain to have readers turning pages until dawn.
"Set mostly in Southern California, this topnotch thriller from bestseller Koontz (The Good Guy) depicts with unabashed emotion and wit the magical powers of golden retrievers — in particular, a female named Nickie, who will stop at nothing to save innocent children and protect their guardians. Amy Redwing, the survivor of a horrifying marriage, establishes Golden Heart to rescue golden retrievers, rehabilitate the abused ones and find 'forever homes.' A supernatural chain of events ensues after Amy and her architect boyfriend, Brian McCarthy, rescue Nickie during a violent intervention in a family dispute. Soon the pair are on a mission that leads to a transformative confrontation with a number of ugly characters — Gunther Schloss, a frustrated aspiring novelist turned killer-for-hire; Moonglow, a psychobitch in the Mommie Dearest league; and Moonglow's lover, Harrow, a self-obsessed sicko. This is the perfect book for thriller addicts who know the darkest hour is just before dawn and for canine lovers who remember 'dog' spelled backwards is 'god.'" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Dean Koontz loves dogs. For decades, dogs have played significant roles in his fiction, most notably in his 1987 novel 'Watchers.' They've also inspired a short, comic volume of canine wit and wisdom called 'Life Is Good: Lessons in Joyful Living.' Continuing this tradition, an unusual golden retriever named Nickie dominates Koontz's latest novel, 'The Darkest Evening of the Year.' The result is,... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) simply put, literary slobber. 'Darkest Evening' opens when Amy Redwing, founder of the rescue organization Golden Heart, and Brian McCarthy, her architect boyfriend, liberate Nickie from the dog's drunken, abusive owner. It soon becomes apparent that Nickie is no ordinary dog. Her presence sends Brian into an extended fugue state in which he draws her image repeatedly, attempting to capture the mysterious essence in her eyes. Amy finds something strangely familiar in Nickie, who seems to embody long-buried elements of her own history. The past, both Amy's and Brian's, quickly becomes an integral part of the narrative, threatening the fragile present. Amy's past includes early abandonment, a life divided between foster homes and a Catholic orphanage, a formative encounter with a golden retriever (also named Nickie) and a traumatic series of events that she keeps hidden from the world. Brian's past includes a disastrous relationship with Vanessa, a world-class sociopath with whom he fathered a child (named Hope) with Down syndrome. These disparate elements eventually connect, drawing Brian, Amy and the mysterious Nickie into a lethal confrontation with the darkest aspects of their collective past. Mostly, though, the story serves as a framework for Koontz's personal philosophy, a set of guiding principles that he forces on the reader with relentless, didactic persistence, in part by trashing a number of modern novelists whom he considers destructively cynical. He believes that animals, dogs in particular, are inherently noble, even sacred. He believes that life has a profoundly spiritual dimension and that we are surrounded at all times by Meaning, by complex patterns we often fail to perceive. Conversely, he believes that the greatest human error lies in refusing to acknowledge the existence of Meaning, and in yielding to belief in a chaotic, random universe. These are reasonable, even honorable, beliefs, but they never take on the quality of felt life, trapped as they are in a narrative that is at once ponderous, self-satisfied and dull. The problems, and there are many, begin with the characters. Amy and Brian are both saintly and fatally bland. The dialogue between them is annoying and overly arch, as in this early, unfortunately typical, exchange: '"I'd sure like to kiss you now," he said. '"As long as we don't generate enough heat to bring the global-warming police down on us, go ahead."' The villains, on the other hand, are monolithic embodiments of evil. Chief among them are Vanessa and her current lover, cartoonlike figures who are in love with death, aroused by pain and filled with a kind of motiveless malignity that is neither interesting nor convincing. The prose is a constant problem, too. Koontz is given to clumsy metaphors ('In the sky's distillery, the afternoon light was a weak brandy') and bizarre, unintentionally comic constructions ('Running horses on stone could have clopped no harder than his heart'). But Koontz's deepest, most besetting flaw is his compulsion to state the obvious, explaining every nuance. A quick example: After introducing a character who smuggles terrorists into the country and once castrated a pair of small-time marijuana dealers, Koontz tells us: 'She was a beautiful woman and hard and strong, but she was not a good person.' The cumulative effect is a predigested, deadening quality. By the novel's end, I found myself longing for some straightforward ambiguity. At the same time, Koontz is fundamentally intolerant of writers with worldviews different from, or darker than, his own. This time out, his primary whipping boy is Kurt Vonnegut, though Thomas Pynchon, James Joyce and Franz Kafka also come under fire. To Koontz, Vonnegut is emblematic of a breed of writers 'who sweetened their nihilism with giggles, the kind of guys who would be happy operating a weenie stand in Hell.' Lowering the tone even further, Koontz adds a subplot involving a killer-for-hire who goes by the names of such Vonnegut characters as Billy Pilgrim, Eliot Rosewater and Dwayne Hoover, and who celebrates his sense of emptiness by taking lives and spreading pain wherever he goes. As gratuitous literary insults go, this one is an Olympic contender. It is also silly, mean-spirited and ineffectual. At the end of the day, there is more life, more authentic humanity, in the kindly, considered pessimism of Kurt Vonnegut than in all the airless pages of this dreary, interminable book." Reviewed by Bill Sheehan, author of 'At the Foot of the Story Tree' and co-editor of the recent anthology 'Lords of the Razor', Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"If not top-drawer Koontz, darned close to it, magnetically readable, and incorporating an eloquent plea for discarded and mistreated dogs everywhere." Booklist
"Mr. Koontz routinely churns out epic tales of good versus evil, but he strains hard this time to place a pet at the center of his moral universe." Janet Maslin, New York Times
Koontz delivers suspense for all seasons with a transcendent thriller — a heart-gripping tour de force featuring a dedicated dog rescuer, a very special golden retriever she saves, and the murderous adversaries they must face together.
About the Author
Dean Koontz, the author of many #1 New York Times bestsellers, lives with his wife, Gerda, and the enduring spirit of their golden retriever, Trixie, in southern California.
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