The book centres itself around Nickie, a Golden Retriever rescued by Amy Redwing from a household where daily abuse occurs. Her shining presence attracts humans and animals alike.
Amy Redwing is a professional dog rescuer. Architect boyfriend is Brian McCarthy. Both have had troubled prior relationships.
Nickie immediately upon arrival at Amy’s bungalow becomes the alpha dog over the two resident dogs: Ethel and Fred. Amy is surprised when there is none of the usual greetings dogs give to a strange dog in their territory. I picked up on the unusualness of this immediately, as I have had long experience with dogs. Rarely is an outside dog submitted to by dogs with an established territory without some kind of scuffle.
Koontz moves the plot around to cover all the aspects of horror by visiting all of the characters. His evil characters fit the bill perfectly, and this is where his horror element comes in. Horror it is: of the most visceral kind. It arrives at different stages with little explanation building the tension with each appearance; while the reader comes to the realization the characters with nefarious intent are truly evil.
Every explanation of dog behaviour, the management of puppy mills, supernatural occurrences, flashbacks and the actions of the characters, both good and bad, is elaborate and well described correctly. He has a different writing style for the chapters containing the villains as if distancing himself from their actions. The other chapters are written in his usual style. Any reader of this book must go with the flow of the story and take each scene as a clue to the whole. As the clues are revealed the true horror unfolds and the reader is left wondering, as I was, what good can come of the desperate situations Amy, Brian, and Hope find themselves in.
Brian’s ex-girl friend, Vanessa, has custody of their daughter Hope who has Down’s Syndrome. Vanessa torments Brian by calling the girl, Piggy, and unknown to Brian abuses Piggy physically and psychologically. It was these latter scenes that were the most difficult to read. Whoever coined the phrase “humans are the meanest animals” hit the nail on the head.
Ultimately, Amy and Brian came to the conclusion they had to face their challenges head-on to make progress in their own relationship.
By the end of the book Koontz tidied up all the loose ends, though I felt most of the last chapter should have been omitted or rewritten a different way as it appeared contrived. There were several laugh-out loud sections throughout, some tender moments, and many horrific psychological moments. With the story woven together by various viewpoints, Koontz revealed how the characters were related to each other by the end of the book.
I did enjoy this book. It supported my faith that there are positive forces at work when you least expect them. The common theme, as in all of Koontz’s books, is that despite the world being a dark and evil place, there is always that spark of light to find necessary answers and solace in.
Author: Dean Koontz
Format: Hardcover, 354 pages.
Publisher: Bantam Dell