Pros: Detailed world-building; tension
Cons: Too depressing for me right now; starts out a bit slow and rambling
Rating: 4 out of 5
I’d heard of Dean Koontz’s Jane Hawk novels, and I am overall a fan of his work, so I decided to read the first volume of the series to see what I thought: The Silent Corner: A Novel of Suspense (Jane Hawk). I’m not as wowed by it as some reviewers seem to be, but it’s certainly good work. Jane is an FBI agent on leave from the Bureau after her Marine husband, Nick, kills himself. She refuses to believe he was in a state of mind where he could commit suicide, and she starts looking a little more closely at suicide statistics. What she finds is alarming. There’s a noticeable uptick in the suicide rate of late, and most of those additional suicides seem to be committed by people who had no reason to kill themselves and weren’t exhibiting any kind of depression or similar illness. Moreover, a handful left notes behind that display a sort of strangeness, in some cases an indication that they’re fighting against some sort of outside influence. Shortly after Jane gets into this, someone breaks into her house and threatens her five-year-old son with much worse than death (trigger warning for seriously dark abuse threats). Suddenly she doesn’t know who she can trust, and she’s forced to hide her son with friends while she goes on the run. After all, the only way to guarantee that these bastards don’t harm her or her son is to expose them all.
Koontz’s trademark style is somewhat rambling (particularly early on) and rather purple:
Two months earlier, when all this started, she learned that not all cops were on the side of the righteous, that in this dangerous time when shadows cast shadows of their own, when darkness often passed for light, the just and the unjust wore the same face.
It’s one of those things where either you enjoy it or can put up with it, or you don’t and you can’t. While the rambling toward the beginning tends to make me a bit impatient, the somewhat turgid prose can be fun when I’m in the mood for it. Anyway, the pacing starts to pick up about a quarter of the way through or thereabouts, so it isn’t too bad.
The mood of the tale is very dark and dour. There’s an overwhelming conspiracy going on that follows Jane everywhere. Everything is stacked against her, to the point that it’s kind of depressing, to be honest. It’s hard to imagine how she’ll be able to stay off the radar for any length of time. Eventually even an old friend of hers is turned against her in the worst way. Again, it’ll depend on what you’re up for as a reader–if you read for light escapism, this isn’t your book. If you enjoy vast conspiracies and overwhelming odds, then have at it.
The characterization has some very nice depth to it, at least in the case of the good guys. Some of the bad guys are a bit cartoonish, including a particular ‘roid-raging thug who kind of disappears partway through. The world-building is nice. There’s quite the conspiracy going on involving nanotechnology and some very bad people putting it to very evil uses. As usual, Koontz is a master of tension, building it up (once the story finds its footing) and turning it into a freight train of plotting that makes it tough to put the book down.
This isn’t the best Koontz I’ve ever read, but it’s certainly well worth a read. As long as you’re in the right mood, at least.