I remember begging my parents to buy The Exorcist for me to read when I was 11 or 12. They did - not really realizing what it was about. I devoured it in the hammock at the cottage in a few days. It's easy not to be frightened in a sunny place! That was the beginning of scary books for me. Dean Koontz quickly found a place on my list of horror authors that I faithfully followed. But my tastes evolved over the years and it's been quite awhile since I've read one of Koontz's books, so I thought I would give his latest book 77 Shadow Street, a shot.
The Pendleton is a luxury apartment building - in its' former life it was the private home of the well to do Pendleton family. The book opens with a great scene - one of the residents hops on the elevator to ride up to his apartment, but when the doors open - definitely not his floor. Other residents of the building start seeing shadows and more - creatures, ghosts and .....
We are introduced to a myriad of characters in the beginning. I enjoyed the many different players and wondered how they would fit into the plot. Koontz has included floor plans of the building in the opening flyleaves. I found myself studying the floor plans as the action progressed. The detail provided added much to bringing the story 'alive' in my imagination.
One of the residents, a retired lawyer, is also a expert amateur historian. As events progress, he realizes that events from 38 years ago are repeating themselves. Something is very, very wrong in their building.
What is frightening? To everyone it's a little something different. I think the shadow seen flitting by out of the corner of your eye or the television watching you is much more terrifying than blatantly grotesque 'creatures'. Subtlety works better for me.
Koontz cuts in and out with short narratives from a being who calls himself The One. I found his pronouncements a bit cheesy and found myself skimming over them.
The second half of the book moves much more quickly and caught my interest more when the residents start taking action. Although there is a large cast of characters, for me, it is the two children who stand out the most. Koontz has done a fantastic job with young Winny, brave beyond his years. I found myself rooting for him time and time again.
In the second half of the book Koontz also throws a spanner into what I had initially taken as a run of the mill horror book. He has presented an interesting background and reason for the happenings in the Pendleton that I didn't see coming.
My only complaint is some of the overly long (and a wee bit boring) rhetoric from some of the characters. More action, more thrills, more spookiness, less thought provoking diatribes on post humanism.
Publishers have mounted a pretty spectacular website for the book. You can enter The Pendleton and explore the various apartments. Or play it safe and read the first chapter of 77 Shadow Street.