Dean Koontz starts off like a sleek and racy Shanghai Maglev, loses momentum in between but still maintaining the look and feel of a Shinkansen, before finally losing steam and sputtering to a huffing and puffing halt like a lumbering freight train. Odd Thomas seeking solace and serenity from a troubled mind, find himself in the breathtaking confines of St Bartholomew’s abbey, a monastery cloistered by nature and confined by love, selflessness and service. When one night, inspired by an intuition, Odd Thomas finds himself in Room No.32 where two mentally impaired and physically challenged girls, Justine and Annamarie are lodged. Hovering above Justine are three bodachs – creatures of the dark with amorphous features that manifest themselves just before a disaster or calamity is about to strike. As a result of being bestowed by an extraordinary capability of spotting the dead and communicating with the tormented souls desperate to make it to the ‘Other Side’, Odd Thomas knows that the moment the abbey teems with bodachs bordering in the sixties and seventies all hell will break loose.
Thomas’ worst fears come to fruition when there materialises not only an infestation of bodachs, but also the mysterious disappearance of an affable monk, Brother Timothy. Odd knows that he does not have much time to protect the lives of the children and the monks and nuns inhabiting the abbey. His intuition also begs him to contend with a few peculiar characters making the abbey their current abode such as a lumbering bear of a Russian from Indianopolis, Romanovich, who was previously an unlicensed mortician before choosing librarian as his profession, a very evasive and elusive novice monk, Brother Leopold and a maverick theoretical physicist transformed into a monk, Brother John a.k.a John Heineman.
Whether Thomas succeeds in his noble endeavour forms the core and crux of Dean Koontz’s plot. Antithetical to a mystery/horror genre, Koontz’s narration is painfully prolonged, meandering around like a winding tributary lost in its quest to merge with the sea and with a plethora of divergences and digressions from the plot that are absolutely unwarranted. However, the bane of the book lies in the employ of humour and punchlines with unfettered abandon. While Koontz has a phenomenal sense of humour, he overdoes the wisecrack/punchline bits till those attempts become exercises in cliches. As the reader becomes irascible, irritable and insipid, Koontz ploughs on with a relentless vigour that would have served him exceptionally well in other spheres where such an enthusiasm would have actually been warranted.
When the climax finally arrives after 400 odd pages of an excruciating exploration of the reader’s patience, it peters out into a predictable anti-climax. Add to this already uninspiring mix, Odd’s trysts with the ghosts of Elvis and Frank Sinatra, you have a book which you picked up inadvertently!