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The Silent Corner by Dean Koontz

Published by Bantam on June 20, 2017

The first thing to know about The Silent Corner is that Dean Koontz doesn’t finish the story he begins. Fortunately, the story does not end with a cliffhanger, but the plot is not resolved. More Jane Hawk novels are on the horizon.

The second thing to know is that The Silent Corner, unlike many Koontz novels, has no supernatural element. It’s less a horror novel than a “vast evil conspiracy” novel of the sort that Ludlum used to write. Still, The Silent Corner feels like a Koontz thriller, not an imitation of a Ludlum thriller.

Jane Hawk is the recent widow of a Marine officer who killed himself. The suicide rate, like the murder rate, has been increasing, but without an apparent pattern. On leave from the FBI and off the grid, Jane is searching for a thread that connects the suicides. Jane is off the grid because she’s being chased by an unknown but well-financed enemy. Her life is complicated by the knowledge that she’s hidden her only son with a friend and cannot see him often, because the conspiratorial forces that want her to cease her inquiries have threatened them both.

The note that Hawk’s husband left implies that he felt a compulsion to die. Notes left by other unlikely suiciders suggest that they heard voices or suddenly envisioned a path to a better life despite having no religious beliefs. Hawk suspects that some outside force is compelling thousands of people to commit suicide.

Hawk enlists help in her search for the truth, including a famous actor and an aging veteran who runs a soup kitchen. She tangles with the ultra-rich who indulge their nefarious and demented fantasies. As a reader would expect of Koontz, all of those characters seem real.

Several parts of The Silent Corner don’t pass credibility scrutiny. Why is an FBI agent (as opposed to, for instance, the CDC) the lone person who seems to have noticed that people are committing suicide for no reason? Why do the conspirators think anyone will listen to her? Why is an exclusive and extremely illegal club for rich deviants designed in a way that all but ignores security? How does a conspiracy involving a stunning technological breakthrough have such an extensive reach while still remaining hidden? And why are such resourceful conspirators unable to find Jane’s kid, given the obvious place she picked to hide him? Suspension of disbelief is the key to enjoying a conspiracy thriller, but Koontz challenged my ability to do that.

The background of The Silent Corner pictures a nation that has grown increasingly angry, a nation in which assholes feel an entitlement to engage in rude behavior. Sounds depressingly like the real world, doesn't it? Yet Koontz always manages to portray the decency of those who have been dealt a losing hand. Characters who are poor, homeless, disabled, or victimized are kinder and more respectful of others than the humorless and self-impressed people who wield power, although a couple of wealthy characters are also good people.

The story moves quickly and the plot, while fanciful, never becomes convoluted. The Silent Corner doesn’t have the depth of Dean Koontz’ best work, but it left me looking forward to the next in the series, which is enough to make me recommend it.


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