Tag Archives: Jane Hawk

‘The Crooked Staircase,’ by Dean Koontz

The Crooked Staircase

…In this world of rapid change, there were few things to which you could hold fast. Wisdom acquired through centuries of experience, traditions, and beloved neighborhoods eroded and washed away and with them went the people who found solace and meaning in those things, who once would have been part of your life for most of your life. Now a rootless population, believing in nothing but the style and fashion of the moment, produced a culture of surface conformity under which the reality was a loveless realm in which soon everyone would live as a stranger in a strange land.

Oh man. I thought this one would kill me. Dean Koontz’s Jane Hawk novels are tours de force in the thriller genre, and The Crooked Staircase just ups the stakes and speeds the pace.

This time out, Jane Hawk, former FBI agent and now a wanted fugitive, framed because she knows too much about a horrific conspiracy in high places, is hunting for the remaining top conspirator whose identity she knows. Finding him and “breaking” him are easy, compared to the fresh mysteries his information generates.

Meanwhile, an oddly matched, ruthless team of government agents are hunting for Jane’s son, whom she has hidden away with people who (she hopes) they can’t identify. But the agents have access to an infinite amount of information, and they are patient. And they’re getting closer.

The tension and suspense just never let up in The Crooked Staircase. Koontz’s skill in creating characters you really like and care about just makes it more nail-biting. Sometimes you’ll want to laugh, and sometimes you’ll want to cry. But you won’t be able to put it down.

Highly recommended. Cautions for language, violence, and adult themes, jolting in their effect but fairly mild by the standards of the genre.

‘The Whispering Room,’ by Dean Koontz

The Whispering Room

Those chosen for elimination were on what the conspirators called “the Hamlet list,” a fact Jane had learned from one of the two men she’d killed in self-defense the previous week. With the self-righteous air of a politician justifying graft as a form of social justice, he had explained that if someone had killed Hamlet in the first act of Shakespeare’s play, more people would have been alive at the end. They seemed really to believe that this ignorant literary interpretation justified the murder of 8,400 people a year.

I haven’t made a secret of my dislike for “Rambette” stories, where tiny little women run around beating up big, bad guys in the manner of Sly Stallone. However, I’m willing to cut Dean Koontz some slack, because he’s Dean Koontz and his work delights me. I enjoyed the first book in the Jane Hawk series, The Silent Corner, and The Whispering Room is equally good.

In a Minnesota town, a sweet, beloved teacher of children with learning disabilities kills herself in a horrific act of terrorism. The town sheriff, Luther Tillman, grows suspicious when federal agents sweep in to handle the investigation and put out information he knows to be false. His decision to investigate further will put him – and his family – in mortal danger. And worse.

Meanwhile Jane Hawk, our heroine, a former FBI agent and now the FBI’s most wanted fugitive, continues her quest to find and unmask the leaders of a nation-wide conspiracy aiming to kill off people who might alter history in the “wrong” way, and to create an army of brain-controlled automatons. She must travel in disguise, deal with criminals, and keep on the move to retain her freedom and her hope – and to protect her son, who is in the conspiracy’s sights.

I can find nothing to criticize in the storytelling in The Whispering Room. The tension is almost unbearable, the action (generally) plausible, the characters interesting. I particularly love how author Koontz finds ways to remind us that, even in the most perilous times, there is still goodness in the world.

Cautions for violence and language. Highly recommended.

‘The Silent Corner,’ by Dean Koontz

The Silent Corner

There had been corruption in every civilization since time immemorial. If the corruption was of the heart, the culture could think its way to health with great effort. If the corruption was of the mind, it was more difficult to feel a way toward recovery, for the heart was a deceiver. If both mind and heart were riddled with malignancies—what then?

One of my few gripes with Dean Koontz is that he has bought 100% into the “butt-kicking female heroine” meme, in which tiny little women who look like models serve as action characters. The Silent Corner is premised on a character of this kind, but I must say Koontz makes it work here.

Jane Hawk, the heroine, is an FBI agent on leave following the suicide of her beloved husband. He was a happy, successful military officer, bound for a political career, when she found him dead in his bathtub one day, having left behind a note that made no sense.

Partly to relieve her pain, Jane started doing research on suicide. She discovered that suicide rates have been rising steadily for the past few years, and that a surprising number of promising, idealistic, and apparently happy people have stunned their families by killing themselves. One day she got a visit from a strange man – she thinks of it as a “courtesy call” – who told her that if she didn’t lay off, “they” would kill her and do worse than killing to her young son.

Jane doesn’t have it in her to quit. She hides her son with people she trusts, who have no traceable link to her, and embarks on a dangerous investigation. She doesn’t have much hope of success as she gradually learns the wealth and power she’s going up against, as well as the horrific plans these people have for all of humanity. But better to die trying than do nothing. These people will eventually kill her and her boy, she calculates, even if she leaves them alone.

One generally expects a supernatural element in a Dean Koontz novel, but The Silent Corner is pure dystopian science fiction. It’s fast and sharp and scary and touching, written with grace. It’s the first book in a series, and I look forward to the next one, The Whispering Room.

Recommended, with mild cautions.