Dean Koontz is an amazing stylist when it comes to writing novels. I enjoy the way he puts words together and the energy of his pacing. When it comes to dialogue, he’s got a definite ear for the way people speak. He’s been in the writing business for a long time, and his passion is always clear. Primarily, he’s been lately known for his thrillers, but those readers also embrace his “feel good” novels.
For these kinds of books, Koontz usually plays his characters as innocents caught up in a macabre web involving criminals and heavy-handed bureaucrats with sinister agendas. That’s what Koontz was going for it in his latest book, Breathless, but somewhere along the way he dropped the ball.
Oh, there are innocents aplenty. The book opens with Grady Adams, a small time furniture maker living life at a slow pace with his wonder dog, Merlin. I actually thought the opening was very reminiscent to the opening pages of an earlier Koontz book, Watchers. Even the creepy noises and things that happened out in the forest seemed to echo that book.
Then there is Camille Rivers, the local veterinarian who has basically pledged her life to the protection of animals. Other than her medical practice, Cammie seems to have no life. Sadly, that really comes across in these pages as well.
The two main characters, our heroes, seemed to be shadows of Koontz’s normal characters. They never quite came to life for me in the novel. There were bits and flashes that were really done well, but the book just bounced around too much for them to take hold. I really believed Grady was going to be our go-to guy for this novel, but it was like he got edged out by Cammie, who ultimately didn’t do much at all.
I can’t say that this is a suspense novel in the truest sense. There was no chase, no sense of impending doom, no ticking clock. Curiosity propelled me through the pages more than anything else. I wanted to find out more about Puzzle and Riddle, two amazing animals that showed up in the pages. Unfortunately, that didn’t turn out as well as I’d have liked either. Koontz raised a lot of questions with his story, which is what writers are supposed to do, but he never got around to answering them.
Another semi-hero character is a casino-gambling mathematician who is an expert in chaos theory. We ended up getting more page coverage of his gambling in casinos than in his insight into the mysterious animals. It was like he was dropped in at the right moment to explain everything to our heroes, who didn’t really have a clue. And he was tied to our heroes by the thinnest thread woven out of left field.
Then there was a villain, a bad guy who didn’t have anything to do with Puzzle and Riddle at all. I read through several pages of him worrying that the brother he had murdered had come back for revenge. That concept never went anywhere either.
Rounding out the cast is a homeless guy named Tom who never meets anyone else in the book. I didn’t understand that subplot at all. I know it was supposed to tie into the arrival of the mysterious creatures and the fact that the world as we knew it evidently changed, but I just didn’t feel like much had changed by the end of the book.
I think the concept had a lot of promise. The whole idea of how things and creatures are created was deep, but Koontz only skims the surface of what might actually have taken place if these events had occurred. I wanted more. I think most readers will.