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Dean R. Koontz

Putnam Publishing

US Hardcover First

ISBN 0-399-13673-8

384 pages; 22.95

Date Reviewed: 02-28-1992

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 2002




The chances are that you already know whether or not you like Dean R. Koontz. He's kind of hard to miss, with his annual novel, released in January, that shoots to the top of the bestseller lists for a few weeks. Or those paperback reprints of novels written under pseudonyms that keep popping up like perennials on your grocery store shelves. So let's assume you like his novels, probably thinking that "Watchers" is his best so far, with "Lightning" and "The Bad Place" right up there in the running. So how does his latest, "Hideaway" measure up to the best? It's in there, folks; it's in the running. For those like myself who enjoyed "The Bad Place", "Hideaway" is another winner in the inimitable Koontz style featuring clear characters, incredibly well-described action and a breathtaking finale this time, set in an abandoned Orange County amusement park.

As usual, Koontz gives us two real nice characters up front, Hatch and Lindsey Harrison. Driving down from the San Bernadino Mountains in the snow, they encounter a drunken truck driver who forces their car off the road. She lives; he dies, for an hour and a half, but is brought back to life by a resuscitation specialist in Orange County. They start life anew, adopt and a wonderfully characterized little girl named Regina, and it all turns out with a happy ending. Yeah, right. This is Dean Koontz after all, and though he likes his happy little wappies, he also likes to terrorize them and the reader with unlovely figures like Vassago, a young man who thinks he's from Hell and might as well be. As their paths intertwine we know who's going to get attacked, but with Koontz, the fun is in getting there.

In "Hideaway", he really outdoes himself in his Orange County environment, so convincingly creating that amusement park out in the wilds of San Juan Capistrano that I asked myself if it might actually exist. He's toned things down a tad from "The Bad Place" and "Cold Fire", and keeps them mostly in the realm of believability, both in the characters (Vassago is not nearly so extreme as the killer in "The Bad Place") and in the action. But no matter what, his protagonists are not just good, they're humble; his villains are not just bad, they're psychotic, and should be shot down like dogs; and his chase scenes are the best ride this side of Star Tours.

In the end, that's why we read Dean Koontz. Sure, he writes slick bestsellers, but he can put a picture in your brain like nobody's business, and when he winds up the tension, you'd better have a clear calendar, because you won't want to budge from your book-reading binge. Oh, maybe it's just nostalgia on my part; I spent enough time in Orange County to make his descriptions that much more realistic. But there's an undeniable skill there, one that's making Dean Koontz rich and his readers very happy little wappies.