This novel is combination public service announcement, lecture, and a loose, erratic storyline of good versus evil with animal abuse, domestic violence and many detours into the supernatural to resolve impossible conflicts. Amy and Brian are good. Moongirl and Harrow are bad, as well as other assorted characters that fall within either label as this unlikely story rambles on. It truly strains credulity to imagine this is the same man who wrote The Watchers.
Apparently suffering from the James Patterson syndrome, Koontz also writing in his sleep, trading on a deserved reputation for supernatural thrillers. Using his golden retriever for inspiration, Koontz creates the animal’s “angel”, Amy Redwing, whose sole purpose in life is to rescue animals - and occasionally humans - from violent situations or certain euthanasia by an overburdened county.
The chatty yet mysterious Amy brings her boyfriend, Brian, on her latest adventure: rescuing Nickie, a golden retriever, from physical abuse, in the process saving a battered mother and her two traumatized children. But Amy is being pursued by someone from her past, someone who will exact revenge on the woman who never talks about her past. And Brian hasn’t seen his daughter since her mother kidnapped her, their only contact cruel emails where Vanessa calls their Down’s Syndrome child “Piggy” and describes small acts of revenge she visits on the child.
In an effort to reconnect father with daughter, Amy and Brian fall into an elaborate plot that will bring a final day of reckoning to both. Luckily for them, Nickie is more than a dog, infused with a spirit that speaks of more supernatural connections. Koontz used to call upon the supernatural in innovative ways, suggesting the unknown world might infiltrate human existence. Here, he barely bothers to construct a plausible scenario - merely the predictable evil of vengeful people wallowing in decadence and incomprehensible violence.
Other than the golden retrievers, the characters are flat, one-dimensional, as they embrace good or evil. And when these people are bad, they are very, very bad, as though there are no nuances in human behavior, no contradictory motivation, no inner conflicts that lead to flawed decisions. The only stars are the dogs: Fred, Ethel and Nickie (who may or may not possess the soul of one of the characters’ daughter).
Clearly Koontz loves these animals and is doing his part to raise consciousness about rescue dogs, but there is so little effort at real plot that it is difficult to plod through this book. Aiming for a mass market, borrowing liberally from otherworldly concepts to bridge irreconcilable problems, Koontz substitutes the banal for the nuanced.
With uneven prose and a barely believable storyline, this awkward and erratic story is quite a fall from grace, from The Watchers to one of the worst novels I have ever read. Imagine my shock when Publishers Weekly praised this effort as a great thriller. Now who has sold their soul, Koontz or the critics?