Thursday, February 26, 2009


'"Are you him?" the stranger asked.
Tim said, "Who else would I be?"
"You look so...ordinary."
"I work at it," Tim assured him.
The stranger finally picked up his drink. Getting it to his lips, he slopped beer on the bar, then chugged half the contents of the glass.
Sliding the manila envelope across the bar, the guy said, "Half of it's there. Ten thousand. The rest when she's gone."
As he finished speaking, the stranger turned on his stool, got to his feet, and headed toward the door.
As Tim was about to call the man back, the terrible meaning of those eleven words clarified for him: Half of it's there. Ten thousand. The rest when she's gone.'

The Good Guy is the story of Tim Carrier, a lumbering mason who wants nothing more than to quietly go about his day, and to enjoy a cold beer with friends. In a twist straight out of the Hitchcock playbook, Tim, sitting in his usual spot at the dive bar owned by his friend, is mistaken for a contract killer. He is given a folder containing info on the intended victim, and a ten thousand dollar advance. Befuddled, Tim watches the man exit, and is still in shock when, moments later, the actual killer arrives. Tim calls him off, pays him to not complete his mission, and follows him outside to discover the killer may very well be a cop!

Shrugging off his passive nature, Tim does what any good guy would: he searches out the victim, informs her that she’s in danger, and helps her escape. The added bonus? Tim has as many layers as an onion, and as they stay one step ahead of the killer, he slowly reveals that there’s more to him than just a way with bricks. Oh, and he’s also smitten with the stunning novelist he’s protecting.

The Good Guy
is one of those crackling page-turning pot boilers, perfect for reading on a plane or the beach. Indeed, that’s exactly where I read the book, on a recent excursion to Naples. It isn’t heady; it’s not meant to be. Koontz has a knack with peppy dialogue, though it can get a little over the top. And as far as psychopaths go, the villain, known mainly as ‘Krait’ has the usual, yawn-inducing quirks of a killer. Sure, killing someone isn’t quirky enough. He’s gotta be over the top. But he can also display charm, too, as evidenced in a creepy scene with an innocent older woman who thinks the killer is merely her daughter’s houseguest. With an omniscient government-like facility watching and facilitating his every move, Koontz gives the notion that there is something much larger at stake than the life of one woman.

Koontz’s older novels (Watchers, Twilight Eyes, The Vision, Lightning, even Phantoms - which Affleck was the bomb in, for the record) have more gravitas than many of his newer books. In fact, with similar titles, and similar characters, it’s hard to distinguish one story from the next. And though I used to read his books feverishly (much to the chagrin of some of my friends…you know who you are!) I was getting a bit tired of his work. There are few authors whose books I collect in hardcover, and while Dean was once atop that list, I’ve scaled back a bit, and so I haven’t picked his newest book, Your Heart Belongs to Me, another book with an Alfred twist.

Literary god Stephen King labeled The Good Guy one of his Top Ten Books of 2008, so I knew going in that I was going to get some of the old Koontz back. I like the Hitchcock vibe he’s going with now (surprise!), and though the book’s ending doesn’t shock and amaze, getting there is awful damn fun.

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