Dean Koontz delivers a tour-de-force nail-biter of a thriller made all the more effective by its narrow frame of focus the action takes place mostly throughout one night in the never-ending night-life of Christopher Snow.

Chris is the first-person narrator who is restricted to the night and low light because of his rare disease, xeroderma pigmentosum (XP), in which any exposure to ultraviolet rays can kill him with skin cancers. Chris lives by candlelight and must wear protective sunblock even under fluorescent lighting. The son of a professor and a scientist, his life in Moonlight Bay has been quiet and careful.

Now 28, Chris Snow accepts "freakdom" and his lifestyle, thanks to friends like his lover Sasha, surfer king Bobby Halloway, and Orson, his faithful Labrador. But on this, the night his father succumbs to cancer, Chris's life spins into yet another strange direction when he accidentally witnesses the theft of his father's body it is switched with that of a grotesquely mutilated vagrant by hospital attendants. The conspiracy involves the local funeral director and the police chief, both people Chris respected. At home, Chris finds a 9mm pistol he didn't know his father owned, left for him by a mystery caller. Summoned by his old friend and nurse, Angela, who wants to unburden herself of some horrifying knowledge, Chris learns about her attack by what "was and was not" a monkey, an incident which eventually led to her husband's suicide.

Angela begins to tell Chris about his parents, but is brutally murdered before she can finish her story. As Chris takes to the night to continue investigating, he and his dog become the quarry in a cat and mouse game with shifting rules. The pieces of the puzzle come together slowly, each bringing additional pain for Chris as each signals another betrayal, another truth about his parents and, indeed, his own origins.

The prolific Koontz (Phantoms, Sole Survivor) writes a convincing SF-flavored spine-chiller with great economy. There's enough humor in the young man's voice to smooth over any lumps of language (like Chris and Bobby's over-the-top surfer lingo). There's a cautionary tale about science and responsibility. And there's also a neat philosophical undercurrent as Chris Snow, already unfairly challenged, faces an uncertain future with loyal friends who must learn to "fear nothing" or succumb.

You'll read this novel in one sitting guaranteed.

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