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The Husband Hardcover – May 30, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Koontz (Forever Odd) is likely to have himself another bestseller in this pulse-pounding thriller with echoes of Hitchcock and Cornell Woolrich. One morning, Southern California gardener Mitchell Rafferty gets a call on his cellphone from a stranger saying that Mitch's beloved wife, Holly, has been kidnapped and that he has less than three days to come up with $2 million in cash. Of course, he's warned not to involve the police. While Mitch is still on the phone, the kidnapper proves his seriousness by directing Mitch's attention to a man walking a dog across the street. A moment later the man is shot dead. Mitch must walk a fine line—cooperating with the police inquiry into this murder without revealing Holly's plight. Koontz ratchets up the tension in a manner sure to captivate most readers, though some may find the ending anticlimactic. (May 30)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* It's another boring day in paradise for gardener Mitch Rafferty, planting impatiens on a rich client's lawn. Then his cell rings. It's Holly, his wife, and she doesn't sound good. Someone slaps her, she screams, and a man comes on to tell Mitch that he has 60 hours to raise $2 million to ransom her. Just so Mitch knows they mean business, the man says, see the guy walking a dog across the street? Mitch looks and blam! A bullet to the head kills the dog walker. Let this be a warning, too, that the kidnapper-killers will know if Mitch says word one to the cops about his predicament, and Holly will suffer. Where is a gardener supposed to get $2 million? The sinister caller says he'll let Mitch know; just be a good machine and follow instructions. Despite his terror, Mitch does until . . . But uh-uh-uh, nothing should be given away about this sinuous nail-biter's developments. Suffice it to say that Mitch's intensely warped family, managed according to his rigidly materialistic psychologist-father's theories; two betrayals, one of Mitch, the other of the kidnappers; a slick child pornography entrepreneur; a humane but persistent police detective; and a New Ager psychopath all help ratchet up the suspense and the violence. But Koontz focuses relentlessly on Mitch and, in chapters scattered judiciously throughout the latter 230 pages, Holly. Not for him the flirtation with evil thinking that an Elmore Leonard does so well or the temptation to sympathize with evildoers that an Alfred Hitchcock offers. And yet Koontz is no less an artist for his championing of the good and his determination to have readers identify with it, as this hair-raising thriller attests. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
What lengths will a simple everyday man go to in order to save his wife? Will he sell out his friends, his family, kill someone, etc. I had visions of a very Stephen King'ish exploration into the inner workings of this simple gardener's mind. That's where I was very disappointed. There's just simply not enough depth to this book.
The book seems to be a hodpodge of writing styles. At the beginning, you get this comical dialog between the main character and his worker. The dialog is witty, silly and rather funny.
But then before long, you start getting Dean Koontz spouting all Socrates-like about the truths of our existence, and the tone doesn't fit. The Kindle version is comical because you can see where a lot of people highlight these sections as if Mr. Koontz has offered this amazing insight into the world.... only to be disappointed a page later when you are back to witty dialogue.
About halfway through the book - the witty dialogue just goes away, and suddenly you get this interesting character spouting about weird stuff in New Mexico. I liked this guy until he basically just kept spouting the same nonsense over and over... and then over and over some more. And then guess what? A few chapters later, he says the same things again and again some more.
Some of the chapters are told in present tense (the ones involving the wife), and I didn't like the tense switch. Often in the past tense sections, Koontz would spout one of his truths, but it would be in present tense. It just didn't work.
Some of the plot elements never get resolved, and some of the more interesting characters get pushed to the back of the story and don't get developed like they should have. The main cop Taggart for example deserved a better side story - the book hints that something interesting is in his past, but it never gets developed.
The revelation of who the bad people are seems a little scattered as well. The book never has that big "aha!" moment that I expected. All of these characters are introduced and with such a thin plot line, there isn't much guesswork.
Again - the idea is great, but I would have loved to see Stephen King tackle this one rather than Dean Koontz. Very disappointed.
And his stories, or at least the ones I've read, are always very compelling and original, if somewhat offbeat, dark, bizarre and odd. Perhaps it's precisely that oddity and darkness that makes his stories so compelling.
In any case, in this story he revisited a familiar theme present in many of his other works- that of family dysfunction. Reading his stories often makes me very appreciative of the family I have. In this particular story the dysfunction centered mostly around greed and betrayal, with the bad behaviors taking place between brothers. Actually, the evil deeds were done by one brother, and his cohorts, with the other brother reacting in an incredibly resourceful, intelligent, courageous and admirable way. This resourceful character theme is also a recurring one in many of his stories. I like to believe that I would behave in such a courageous and intelligent manner as this, if I found myself caught in such a difficult predicament, but I probably wouldn't.
That's interesting enough, but when you add in the theme about money, where one brother is willing to do some interesting things for the sake of the almighty dollar, well, that just adds fuel to the fire, or, rather, momentum to the story.
In closing, I'd just like to say that I choose to believe that there is only a small segment of the population that is as deviant as many of Koontz's characters are. Am I living in a bubble? Maybe. But I sure hope not.
I just wish he would do more books like this.
But anyone who knows the *prime* Dean Koontz (Strangers, Watchers), knows this is not typically his formula. It's almost as if, upon responding to pressures from his publisher in regards to Patterson's commercial success, he tried emulating his stories. Or maybe he's just trying out new themes. Dean's classics have included themes like government conspiracies, time travel, DNA mixing and experimentation, or pure sci-fi. Like I said, this is a basic kidnapping/ransom story that seemed like it was right out of Patterson's playbook. Its almost as if Dean read one of his books and said "He makes how much? I can do better than this!". Well, he can, and he did. It's just not the kind of plot line and theme where Koontz really shines. A *good* book for him, and a *great* book for anyone else, and compared to anything else thats out nowadays. This guy can write!