A chance encounter on the pier of Magic Beach, California, launches the newest adventure of Dean Koontz's singular hero, Odd Thomas, who has starred in three previous bestsellers. Wise beyond his 20-something years, Odd evokes the homespun wisdom of Forrest Gump amid the mind-spinning adventures of a Jack Bauer.

The ultimate Everyman, the one-time fry cook is ostensibly just a jack-of-all-trades for an aging actor. Yet a prophetic vision triggers a manhunt for Odd by the Magic Beach police. While on the run, he puts his trust in the mysterious Annamaria and people like Reverend Moran, who betrays him by revealing him to the police. Odd also trusts his own instincts and one of his "oddest" companions: Francis Albert Sinatra, Ol' Blue Eyes, haunts Odd, and goes ballistic with such descriptive finesse it's a joy to read.

Canine relationships are a hallmark of Koontz's writing, and they're sublimely apparent in this tale. Odd's companions include a ghost dog and new dog who intertwine in time and memory, much as Odd's encounters with people and with danger. Throughout Odd Hours, there is the threat of a nuclear terror attack that would affect hundreds of thousands of people. But it's with his descriptions of the personal terror that circles Odd as he confronts a world that blends life and death . . . and lingering death . . . where Koontz is at his zenith.

In the creation of the character Odd Thomas, with his prophetic dreams and psychic encounters and plain-spoken philosophizing, Koontz may have intended an avatar for himself, a voice to opine on everything from the two-way therapeutic interrelationship of man and dog to the global state of distress, but he's transcended that to provide an avatar of hope and honor and courage for all of us - the linchpin of a rollicking good tale.

Sandy Huseby writes from Fargo, North Dakota, and lakeside in northern Minnesota.


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