I replied "It's not my sort of thing" (I’m also busy with The Oxford Paragraphs) "but my Dad likes his work. I'd be happy to take a review copy of Shadow Street for him to read and then post a short piece about what he thought, if that's ok.". The PR from HarperCollins agreed and here we are.
Some background: Dad reads a lot of books, far quicker than me, though he's retired so has the time. He doesn't particularly favour a genre, though the vast majority of it is fiction. His favourite writers seem to be Jean M Auel, Diana Gabaldon, Wilbur Smith and Robert Ludlum.
On reflection based on the synopsis and the spoilery bits Dad explained before offering his opinion of the book, 77 Shadow Street isn’t entirely outside my genre comfort zone. Here’s what was sent in the press release, a version of which is also on the dust jacket:
I am the One, the all and the only. I live in the Pendleton as surely as I live everywhere. I am the Pendleton’s history and its destiny. The building is my place of conception, my monument, my killing ground. . . .Glancing through the pages myself, I notice that at the beginning of the first chapter is a map of the house not unlike a Cluedo board, presumably the address of the title, presumably so that people can check back to see where particular events are taking place.
The Pendleton, an eerie building with a tragic past stands on the summit of Shadow Hill at the highest point of an old heartland city, a Gilded Age palace built in the late 1800s as a tycoon’s dream home. Almost from the beginning, its grandeur has been scarred by episodes of madness, suicide, mass murder, and whispers of things far worse. But since its rechristening in the 1970s as a luxury apartment building, the Pendleton has been at peace. For its fortunate residents—among them a successful songwriter and her young son, a disgraced ex-senator, a widowed attorney, and a driven money manager—the Pendleton’s magnificent quarters are a sanctuary, its dark past all but forgotten.
But now inexplicable shadows caper across walls, security cameras relay impossible images, phantom voices mutter in strange tongues, not-quite-human figures lurk in the basement, elevators plunge into unknown depths. With each passing hour, a terrifying certainty grows: Whatever drove the Pendleton’s past occupants to their unspeakable fates is at work again. Soon, all those within its boundaries will be engulfed by a dark tide from which few have escaped.
When I talked to Dad about the book, most of the conversation was about him telling me the story, listing in some detail all of the various elements, though like I said, I’m not sure what’s really a massive spoiler and what’s revealed in the opening chapters, so we'll leave that to one side.
On reaching the opinion portion of the chat, Dad said that he found the book to be a bit convoluted. He said that there’s “too much going on” and that Koontz "has had a lot of ideas and put them in a story which doesn’t need them."
He said that it was a also bit too repetitious. “You get the feeling everyone is going to die,” he says, “But they don’t. Or some of them don't.” But he did want to stress that he thinks Koontz “is a very clear writer” and that you're always aware of the size of the house.
Finally I pressed him on whether he enjoyed 77 Shadow Street. After thinking for a bit he said, “Yes, after a fashion. I didn’t kick it into touch. I finished reading it.” Which isn't the highest of praise, but given the amount of books Dad has abandoned, not as negative as it might seem at first glance.
All of which said here we are at the competition end of the post. There's a selection of Dean Koontz's back catalogue available to one lucky winner from the UK who can answer the following question:
What do Dean Koontz and Doctor Who legend Terrance Dicks have in common?
(Hint: It's something specific and not simply "they're both writers" or "they're both a bit sci-fi".)
(Extra Hint: It's about specific book titles.]
Email your answers with "Koontz Competition" in the subject line to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Closing date is Monday 6th February 2010. Thanks.