Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Key To Midnight - Dean Koontz

1979; 475 pages.  Genre : Action; Intrigue.  New Author? : No.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    Alex Hunter owns a PI agency in the states.  One of its few cases that was never solved involved the kidnapping of a US senator's daughter.

    That was a dozen years ago.  Now, sitting in the Moonglow Lounge in Kyoto, Alex is startled to see that the singer/owner of the place is a spitting image (plus 12 years, of course) of the kidnapped girl.  But she insists she was raised in Brighton, England, where her parents died in a tragic auto accident.  About a dozen years ago.

    So it is obviously a case of mistaken identity.  Okay, fine.  Just one thing bothers Alex.  Why are people now tailing him?

What's To Like...
    This is an early Dean Koontz book, written long before he settled into the Horror genre.  It's got lots of action and a kewl mystery.  It even has a Romance for the lady readers.  Indeed, the publishers forced Koontz to use the pseudonym Leigh Nichols when The Key To Midnight first came out, so that it would appeal to a wider audience.

    The two main characters - Alex and Joanna Rand - are developed nicely.  The pacing is great, and every time you think you've figured out how it's going to end, Koontz plops a plot-twist on you and your whole theory gets shot down.

    The resolution of the mystery is both original and believable.  And the settings - Japan, England, and Switzerland - are way kewl.

Kewlest New Word...
Preternatural : Out of, or being beyond the normal course of nature; differing from the natural.

    "You need Joanna as much as she needs you."
    "You've told me that before."
    "Have I?"
    "You know you have."
    She smiled at him mischievously, bowed to him, and assumed an air of Asian wisdom that was partly a joke and partly serious.  "Honorable detective should know that repetition of a truth does not make it any less true, and resistance to the truth can never be more than a brief folly."
    She closed the door, and Alex didn't move until he heard the lock bolt slide into place.  (pg. 131)

    "Well, sir, they tell you to humor madmen if you meet one.  And it seems especially wise to humor one with money.  The only thing that bothers me - is it coppers watching you?"
    "No," Alex said.
    "Is it coppers, young lady?"
    "No," Joanna said.  "They're not good men at all."
    "Sometimes neither are the coppers."  (pg. 336)

"Tension, apprehension, and dissension have begun"  (pg. 234)
    There is some clunkiness in TKTM.  The descriptions of Japanese culture, especially the food ones, feel like they were lifted out of a travel book.  So does the train route in Switzerland.  Early on, Alex is manhandled by a thug, which was actually a refreshing change-of-pace.  But later on, he disposes of an armed, highly-trained assassin with relative ease.

    But these are quibbles.  The Key To Midnight may not be great literature, but Koontz is a master storyteller, and he'll keep you turning the pages.  If you like reading Lisa Jackson, you'll probably like this book.  8 Stars.

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