by Dean Koontz
Reviewed by David Hannon
"I am not the law. I am not vigilante justice. I am not vengeance personified. I don't really know what I am, or why."
Written by mass-market wunderkind Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas is the story of a 20-year-old short-order cook named of all things Odd Thomas. Odd lives in Pico Mundo, California, and is utterly content to live the simple life, working as a fry cook at the Pico Mundo Grill, hanging out with his quirky girlfriend Stormy Llewellen and his best friend little Ozzie, and even sometimes, when the need arises, helping out the dead.
The story begins on a Tuesday with Odd helping the ghost of a small girl as she takes him to her killer. By Odd's reaction, it quickly becomes obvious that this is not an unusual occurrence. It's happened enough times that his good friend and the chief of police, Wyatt Porter, is keenly aware that no matter how far-fetched the story, when Odd calls he's not joking around.
After helping the little girl's ghost he heads into work and, while running the short-order station during the busy breakfast rush, spots a conspicuous and disturbing scene. Hovering next to a strangely vacant man are Bodachs: strange, slippery shadows that only appear when the worst type of suffering and violence is on the horizon. Twice in his life he had seen these creatures and both times the misery and death were substantial. In no time, the town of Pico Mundo turns into Bodach central, and it's up to Odd and his peculiar talents to figure out where, when, and how to stop the ensuing chaos.
In the past, Koontz has been known more for his plain old scares, but in books like Odd Thomas, and another more recent work, Life Expectancy, he's obviously enjoying creating unconventional characters that are more winsome than extreme or intense. Don't get me wrong, plenty of his characters are not nice at all, and if you're here for the chills then chills you shall have, but in general he's just creating more likable protagonists.
People not afraid to admit that they like a good "made for paperback" novel every once in a while will certainly get their toes curled by this one. Not only is it fast-paced and spooky, but also, as in the relationship between Odd Thomas and Stormy Llewellen, genuinely endearing, in that whole Six Feet Under / Harold and Maude kind of way.