By Andrew Buckner
Rating: **** out of *****.
Hindered by a repetition of ideas and scenarios in its midsection, Dean Koontz’s latest work, The Silent Corner: A Novel of Suspense (2017), is at least fifty pages overlong. Likewise, it is oddly fashioned. For example, many of the sequences, especially in the second half, seem unnecessarily drawn-out. Correspondingly, the pace seems to stop and go as it pleases. In turn, the chain of events never becomes as fully encapsulating as one would hope. Furthermore, the characters, though fully realized, are archetypical to tales of this genus. This attribute also encompasses our twenty-seven-year-old heroine, Jane Hawk. Though she is painted with a plethora of engaging personality traits and is designed to make audiences cheer her along, she holds too rigorously to the worn “FBI agent on leave turned rogue” formula. The same can be said of the general story arc.
Yet, Koontz’s rich, musical prose is strikingly beautiful. It is filled with the consistent insights that audiences have come to expect from the best-selling author. Additionally, Koontz successfully keeps the sense of brooding menace, intensity and intrigue cranked up on high through most of the volume. Even when the narrative drags, Koontz does his best to keep the adrenaline-pumping. This admirable act extends to the vividly penned, if relatively underwhelming, finale.
Koontz constructs a uniquely alluring and hypnotic plot. It concerns the gun-toting and recently widowed Hawk exploring a rash of inexplicable suicides. This is after her Military Colonel husband, Nick, suffers the same fate. What is strange about these deaths is that they are all caused without any of the obvious triggers. The victims seem to be happy and well-adjusted individuals. Such a search leads Hawk down a darkening path. It is one where the timely theme of the rich using the less privileged as servants for their own whims and benefit is ever-present. The easily manipulative nature of technology is also effectively explored. Bound by her own impression of righteous duty, Hawk’s discoveries throughout Koontz’s tome are remarkable.
The four-hundred and fifty-four-page opus, published by Bantam Books on June 20th, 2017, is noteworthy for utilizing each detail and observation, however minute, Koontz administers along the way. Evidence of this is seen in how many of the tidbits mentioned early on, even fleetingly, are again addressed in an intriguing latter-presented form. Such is a wonderful display of both Koontz’s meticulous craftsmanship and attentive eye for specificity. Koontz’s effort also immerses itself in a barrage of clever, pop-culture related plot points. The references to Bill Condon’s literary political-thriller The Manchurian Candidate (1959) and John Frankenheimer’s 1962 film of the same name are among the most astute. Such results in a flawed, but challenging and rewarding, read. Ultimately, the missteps of Koontz’s chronicle are well-worth enduring. This is for the numerous passages of awe and humanity Koontz issues throughout the project.
Hawk will return in The Whispering Room (2018). It is scheduled for a January 9th release.