Book Reviews

Book Review: Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz – I See Dead People, and Elvis

I started this series by Dean Koontz somewhere in the middle.  That had both good and bad points. The good side of it was I could approach the beginning of the series without the trepidation I feel about Koontz’s writing at times. He seems to have a tendency to come up with great beginnings and ridiculous, frustrating endings, whether it’s a stand-alone book or a series.  His Odd Thomas series doesn’t seem to suffer that fate.  The bad side of it is not quite grasping some of the characters’ nuances. These became clear once I went back to the beginning and started reading.

Odd Thomas is the story of a man named, Odd Thomas.  How he got that name is a bit of a mystery, but that’s him.  And he is a bit on the odd side.  He lives in the town of Pico Mundo, California which seems to be nothing more than an attempt to carve an oasis out of the desert.  He works as a cook in the diner there but has been thinking of changing careers to tire salesman. He has a ravishingly beautiful girlfriend by the name of Stormy Llewellyn, who works in an ice cream shop in the mall.  What makes him odd is that he interacts with dead people.

That’s the start anyway.  As the story goes along it seems that our man Odd has a few other gifts, but the dominant one is his relationship with the dead. Like the series Ghost Whisperer, the dead he encounters seem to have unfinished business on Earth.  Odd often helps them with that unfinished business, passing along information to the town’s police chief who also seems to be something of a father figure to young Odd.  Other times, he takes matters into his own hands, as he does with the first story in the book.

Oh, and there’s Elvis.  Ghost-Elvis pals around with Odd.

Through the course of the story, Odd discovers that something really bad is about to happen in Pico Mundo.  What that is and where it’s going to happen are a mystery, but through his gifts, he slowly begins to put pieces together.

Honestly, Odd Thomas kept me guessing to the end.  In a way, I wish I didn’t know some of the rest of Odd’s story because there was one way the story kept leading me that didn’t make sense with what I already knew.  Koontz’s writing here is magnificent.  Why can’t he keep writing books like this and Lightning?  The suspense level was fantastic and although the characters were a bit quirky, they work quite well in the story.  No one gets so outrageous they descend into the unbelievable.

All of the characters develop well, particularly Odd.  They have a depth to them, rather than just being in the story for a particular point and then disappearing.  We get to know the people of the quirky town who appreciate Odd and care about him.  They are good people who see the same good nature inside Odd.  Pico Mundo feels like a real town and Koontz describes it so well it’s easy to picture the setting as well as the people.

The story kept me glued to my Kindle.  The pace was great; even though it took place only over the course of a few days, it felt like forever, yet time wasn’t stretched that it felt like too much was happening in a short period of time.  For the first time in a long time, I read something by Koontz that I really enjoyed.

If you’ve read a few Koontz books, I can promise you Odd Thomas is one of his winners.