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Odd Thomas    by Dean Koontz order for
Odd Thomas
by Dean Koontz
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Odd Thomas is a 20-year-old short order cook, who lives in a small desert town called Pico Mundo, and who regularly sees dead people. Only a few of his closest friends know of his special talent. They include his girlfriend Stormy and the town's police chief, Wyatt Porter. Odd's silent communiqués with the dead have often helped solve or avert murder.

But the visitations and events Odd currently experiences are different. The arrival of a stranger and his entourage of 'bodachs' (sinister wraiths who feed on pain or disaster) is the first sign. Odd has never seen so many bodachs congregating at one time. He senses that something terrible is going to happen in Pico Mundo. Odd sets out to find out whatever he can about the stranger he's labelled 'Fungus Man', who seems to have it in for Odd and anyone close to him. As each hour passes more wraiths appear. Even Elvis can't help Odd this time; he's more distraught than usual over the loss of his mother. As the number of bodachs continues to grow, Odd fears that all hell is about to break loose.

During his early career I couldn't read enough books by Dean R. Koontz (and his various pseudonyms). I found he wrote wonderfully original and gripping suspense stories, many of them laced with nifty supernatural elements. Then in the early 90s when Koontz became a mega star, his novels began to read like padded short stories or derivations of his previous work. So it's been quite a few years since I've read anything by the author, and I opened Odd Thomas cautiously. Koontz is still trying to dazzle readers with his thousand-dollar vocabulary, and Dickensian descriptions that sometimes bog down the pacing and continuity. Plot-wise (despite the sinister bodachs and a poignant ending) his story felt a little contrived.

But I still found myself liking this book. Does this make Koontz a master storyteller or just a master of story manipulation? I'm still thinking about that. What I do know is that the author's use of first person narrative (something he's rarely done) kept me hooked and wanting to learn more about the main character Odd, his very odd vocation and his odd assortment of friends. His wry and innocent humour and the goodness he sees in everything and everyone are a stark contrast not only to the way Odd was raised, but also to his unsettling gift.

Dean Koontz deserves high marks for creating a memorable character in Odd Thomas. I hope that Odd returns in a future book or two, but armed with a better plot -- and maybe a bit less superfluous narration.

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