Some people might not care for this book (the Amazon reviews support that contention), because it’s different from Dean Koontz’ other work. But if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll have noticed that Koontz frequently changes genres, and mixes and matches genres within a story. He doesn’t like to do the same thing twice (with the exception of the Odd Thomas and Frankenstein books, which just prove that he refuses to be predictable even in his unpredictability). With Your Heart Belongs to Me he has (in my opinion), not only broken new genre ground, but produced his best writing to date.
This book sings. Again and again, I paused in my reading just to savor how beautifully the author had expressed himself. The usual pattern for a popular writer, as far as I’ve observed, is to start out really good, with a book he’s probably labored over for years, and then to become increasingly sloppy, as his publisher’s demands for several books a year force him to churn stuff out and send it away in the rough. But Koontz is an infinitely better writer today than he was when he started, and the best of his recent work reaches (I think) the level of literary fiction. That’s certainly true of Your Heart Belongs to Me.
The blurb on the back told me that this was the story of Ryan Perry, an internet social networking billionaire who’s had a heart transplant and starts getting threatening messages from someone telling him, “You’re heart belongs to me.”
But in fact, Koontz takes more than half of the book to set that situation up. We see Ryan as a rich, healthy, happy young man who lives the American dream. He has an enormous house, surfs whenever he wants to, and is dating a gorgeous young woman. Then he starts experiencing physical symptoms which turn out to indicate, not a heart attack, but a congenital cardiac enlargement condition. He begins to be suspicious (the condition might have been caused by poisoning). He employs a security company to investigate various people who might want him dead. On a whim, he takes his business from the cardiologist he’s been seeing, and switches to a more famous, more expensive specialist. And along the way he has occasional visions—or hallucinations—that seem to be communicating a message. But it’s a message he can’t understand.
Finally his name comes up on the international transplant waiting list he’s on, and he gets his surgery. His recovery is good. But his girlfriend breaks up with him. (She says he knows why, but he can’t figure it out.) Then the messages start appearing—a bag of candy hearts, all with the same message, left on his pillow in a room that ought to be locked and secure. A heart-shaped pendant left on his pillow. A sudden knife attack, accompanied by a whispered threat.
It isn’t until he’s kidnapped and threatened with death that Ryan begins to acknowledge the things he’s been purposely overlooking, and to understand the meaning of the warnings he’s had. “It’s all about the subtext,” his girlfriend, a writer, once told him.
The ending is different from that of any Koontz novel I recall. But it was a good ending, entirely satisfying in its way.
I recommend Your Heart Belongs to Me highly. You’ll find yourself searching your own heart.