A serial killer is stalking families, reenacting murders that happened over 20 years ago. Police detective John Calvino has reason to believe that his own family will be targeted soon. But to convince others, he must finally divulge the secrets of his past and confront the fact that the killer may be a ghost that can possess human bodies at will. WHAT THE NIGHT KNOWS is Dean Koontz's latest scarefest that combines the plot twists of a thriller and the chills of a ghost story.
When Calvino was just 14, he came home to find that a killer had tortured and slaughtered his family. While the maniacal Alton Turner Blackwood was still perched over the bodies of Calvino's young sisters, Calvino shot him. As Blackwood died he vowed revenge, swearing he would abuse and murder the family Calvino would have someday. The pledge has haunted Calvino all his life, especially as he watched his three children grow. And when 14-year-old Billy Lucas is found to have slain his family in a horrific and ritualistic way, Calvino sees obvious similarities between the killings and the ones Blackwood committed decades ago. How can Blackwood be back if Calvino killed him? And if he’s back, how long before he comes for Calvino, his would-be victim turned assassin?
As Calvino explores the possibility that Blackwood may be back in supernatural form and tries to anticipate the date of his attack, his family is faced with a series of bizarre incidents in their home: unexplained shadows, doors opening on their own, movement in mirrors, disembodied voices, and more. It turns out that the home that Calvino designed to protect his family is not secure against Blackwood's assaults nor the small army of thugs and sinners he’s employing, through bodily possession, to scare and harm them. Soon the Calvino family finds itself preparing to battle an evil force whose only goal is their total ruin.
From ghosts to demons, from cold-blooded criminals to psychopaths, Koontz's dark tale has something to spook and scare all kinds of readers. Alton Turner Blackwood is a classic bad guy in both his bodily and ghostly forms. We do get a glimpse into his madness through journal entries, but it is his evil cleverness and determination that make him so frightening. Calvino is also a classic type of character --- a tortured soul who only wants to protect his family from the bad things he has experienced. Despite being predictable, he’s likable overall. Even though they don't always read like real kids, the Calvino children are some of the more interesting characters in the book and drive so much of the plot, especially when Koontz is exploring ideas such as innocence and the power of belief.
WHAT THE NIGHT KNOWS is a fast-paced novel of hurt and evil, redemption and love. The first half will have you jumping at every little noise, afraid of things that go bump in the night, and the second half will convince you that danger is often closer than you think. Still, Koontz manages to make the story hopeful as Calvino puts his demons (literal and figurative) to rest.
Fans will find the author in true form here, as this is a frightening and page-turning tale pitting good against evil that riffs on a few classic horror themes, with some trademark Koontz bits. Newcomers will discover why Dean Koontz is considered one of the masters of horror and suspense as they follow the epic battle between Blackwood and Calvino.
Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 14, 2011