Dean Koontz and Stephen King have always been in competition to be my favorite author. I think after reading this book, King definitely took the lead.
False Memory is a book that left me feeling like I had bought a book that I’d read before. While someone who isn’t an avid reader of Koontz’s books may find this story keeps them on the edge of their seat, if you read many his books you may feel a bit cheated.
The characters seem like we know them from somewhere. I began noticing this in the last Koontz book I read, From the Corner of His Eye. The characters from book to book are being to seem very similar to each other. There are always people in the story who, for one reason or another, are very very good. They usually have a perfect life, are rich, and do a tremendous amount of good for their fellow man.
These characters then seem to be thwarted in doing all their goodness by someone so deeply evil, yet charming, that they have managed to get away with their evil-doings until meeting our heroes. Somehow, the heroes and heroines (with the help of a very smart dog – usually a Golden Retriever) manage to conquer whatever obstacles the villain throws in front of them. By the end of the book, everything is wrapped up nice and neat and they are more perfect, rich, and happy than they were at the beginning of the story.
False Memory is the story of Martie and Dusty Rhodes (could that name be any more of a cliche?). One day Martie begins having terrible panic attacks that lead her to believe by the end of the day that she will kill her husband.
Dusty, meanwhile, is dealing with his own demons in the form of his half-brother, Skeet. Skeet has substance-abuse problems and became suicidal that day while helping Dusty with a painting job. After managing to stop Skeet from jumping off the roof, Dusty brings him to a clinic for treatment, then returns home to find Martie in the midst of her own breakdown.
After ruling out a physical or medical problem, Martie seeks treatment from Dr. Mark Ahriman, the same psychiatrist who has been treating her friend Susan Jagger. Up until a few months prior, Susan had been a very successful real estate agent and happily married. A severe case of agoraphobia ended both her career and her marriage.
Dr. Ahriman is not all that he seems, and Martie and Dusty soon begin to gather bits of information that lead them to suspect this. Despite everything Ahriman has done to manipulate people, Martie and Dusty are somehow able to catch on to his machinations and try to gather facts to prove what is going on.
The book actually only takes place over a few days as Martie and Dusty go through the beginning of her attacks into her treatment. She only has a couple of appointments before they begin to suspect Ahriman. The one thing Koontz always does well is give incredible detail. The book does not plod at all despite the fact that it takes place over such a short time. Instead, I felt like I was in a whirlwind and couldn’t see how anyone’s life could go through so many of the abrupt changes that Martie and Dusty go through without doing some major damage to the psyche.
Another thing Koontz has always done well is writing villains. I think he enjoys them more than heroes since he seems to give them more depth. Ahriman is no exception. He is not simply a one-dimensional villain, but someone whose very core of being seems to be evil, going right back into childhood. Despite having so many advantages, something is not right in his life – his “wiring” is off – and at various times we see just how he came to be as twisted as he is now. Ahriman is the best part of this book.
However, Ahriman’s connection to Martie and Dusty is not just her accidentally stumbling into his office, and that bothered me to no end. It was too coincidental; too contrived. The ending was a tremendous disappointment and letdown after I’d invested the time in these characters. Has Koontz begun to rest on his laurels? This book really has me asking that question.
I wish I could put in a “maybe” where it asks if I would recommend False Memory to a friend. It would depend on just how many Koontz books that person had already read. That option is not there, I’ll put in a NO since I think there are much better Koontz books out there to read.