When readers last met Odd Thomas, he was attempting to rescue the brothers of St. Bartholomew's Abbey from a mad genius who had taken up residence in the previously peaceful monastery halls. Now, in the fourth book of this series, Dean Koontz has his young hero struggling to save several entire cities from total destruction.
Odd Thomas, for those unfamiliar, is just 23 years old but has already led a full life of love, loss and danger. He has the ability to see the dead, lost and confused souls who are unable or unwilling to “move on.” He is called upon to help them out, finding the person who hurt or killed them, or just ease their transition to the next life. He doesn't particularly enjoy this gift, preferring instead the quiet life of a fry cook (although he dreams of being a tire salesman), but has little choice in the matter. With not much family and having lost the love of his life 17 months ago, Odd has been wandering in California, feeling drawn to certain people and places. In ODD HOURS, he finds himself in the small coastal town of Magic Beach caring for an aging and reclusive movie star.
Despite his current peaceful and comfortable situation, Odd is having a frightening recurrent dream of a red tide of destruction, and he fears it is prophetic. In this dream is the image of a young woman who turns out to be 18-year-old Annamarie, pregnant and, like Odd, alone. One moment they are standing on a pier watching the fog roll in, and the next Odd is being chased by three killers. Before page 20, the action starts and doesn't let up until the end of the novel. Even then, readers are left with more of a cliffhanger than a conclusion.
In the course of the night, Odd must outrun the bad guys, find a safe place to hide Annamarie, escape jail (after being arrested hiding out in a church with someone's dog), convince the ghost of Frank Sinatra to leave this world behind, deal with a tugboat full of villains and, of course, save all those cities. The pace is fast as Odd races the clock and tries to figure out the intentions of the group of men who are after him. The antagonists, especially the apparent ring leader, Hoss Shackett, are stereotypical, but the supporting cast is intriguing. Too bad Koontz didn't give them bigger roles in the story. Most likely, though, they will show up in the next installment, because Odd and Annamarie seem to have a sort of mystical connection that Koontz promises to explore further. Who is she, and how does she know so much about Odd? And why was he so willing to risk his life for her without any questions asked?
ODD HOURS is not as successful as the first two Odd Thomas books, but like the third one, BROTHER ODD, it is still a fun read. Despite the fact that it is heavy on the action with little explanation and the ghost of Sinatra is less interesting than the ghost of Elvis was in the previous installments, Odd Thomas remains a charming character and his “gift” unique and compelling. One can only hope that the next entry will have more by way of explanation and insight into the story of Odd and Annamarie, less preaching from the author and more of the winning balance of action, humor and horror that makes these novels so readable and enjoyable.
Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 13, 2011