My patience with modern thrillers—anything late-1990s and beyond—is thin. They always open with potential and then become less interesting with each page. I start several each year, but seldom get past the 100th page before cleaning the gutters is preferable. Dean Koontz is the exception to the rule; although labeling him as a thriller writer is similar to confusing a Corvette with a Kia Soul.
I recently read his 2006 novel The Husband, and I was mesmerized from the first sentence to the last. Its opening is undeniably appealing:
“A man begins dying at the moment of his birth.”
Mitchell Rafferty is happily married, moderately successful with a two man gardening operation, and about to be pulled into nightmare. It begins quickly and without remorse. The day: Monday, May 14, 11:43 AM. Mitch is planting red and purple impatiens when his cell phone rings. A man’s voice:
“‘We have your wife.’”
The kidnapper demands $2 million in exchange for her life. A sum that is not only unobtainable, but nearly unimaginable for Mitch. More revelation would spoil the meal, but there are a handful of brilliantly executed plot twists—none expected, anticipated, or doubted once revealed—and suspense alarming enough for sweaty palms, shallow breathing, and sleepless nights.
The prose—like everything Mr Koontz writes—is smooth and easy as glass. It is poetic in its simple, metered manner; easy to read and brilliant. But everything about The Husband is brilliant; from plot to prose to character to theme. And even better, it opens with death, but ends in a flutter of life:
“Although he knows her as well as he knows himself, she is as mysterious as she is lovely, an eternal depth in her eyes, but she is no more mysterious than are the stars and the moon and all things on the earth.”