This is the third book in the Odd Thomas series. To recap, Odd is a young man with the ability to see the spirits of the dead who have declined, for one reason or another, to move on. He also sees shadow-like creatures called “bodachs.” Their arrival is always the sign that a major calamity is about to befall the area – something that will result in numerous deaths. In the past, the presence of the bodachs has given Odd enough of a heads-up to prevent major tragedy unfolding. Odd’s third ability is what he calls “psychic magnetism,” the ability to intuitively track down a person just by thinking about them.
At the close of the previous book, Forever Odd, the responsibility that Odd’s unique talents demand of him has become too much to bear, and he seeks solace away from civilisation (and the needy dead) in a monastery, not as a monk but as a long-term visitor. The place is St. Batholomew’s, located in remote mountains. At the beginning of Brother Odd, Odd has been there for quite some time, and has already built up good relationships with most of the brothers and sisters. It’s winter and Odd is watching the snow fall outside the window. It’s not something he ever sees in the hot and humid town of Pico Mundo, where he has always lived. As he watches, a lone bodach slinks towards the building – a harbinger of doom. The snow soon becomes a blizzard, and the monastery is sealed off from the world.
One of the brothers goes missing, but that’s not enough to justify the presence of bodachs. Odd plays detective for a while, trying to find out what possible calamities might unfold in a place like this. One suspect is a scientist with a strange laboratory deep underground, accessible only by an electronic palm scanner. The recent suicide of one of the brothers also needs investigating. But before Odd gets very far, something truly bizarre attacks him in the snow. He doesn’t get a good look at it, but from what he does see, it’s the strangest assailant this reviewer has heard described. Strange enough that I had to keep reading.
I liked the characters in this novel, particularly the brothers and sisters. The dullness of their clothing was certainly not reflected in their personalities. It’s clear also that Koontz has a great respect for Christianity and Christian ideals, so much so that I find myself wondering if he is one himself. Occasionally, Koontz comes out with insightful comments about life that are gems to read. I wish I had bookmarked a few of them for you. They’re hard to find now, unfortunately, because they don’t characterise the book; they’re just tidbits. It’s on this issue that I have problems with Koontz. Occasionally, Koontz will say something that reveals him to be a writer of great depth, but he never seems to choose to write a story with genuine worth. Instead, he writes typical supernatural thrillers that meander down common plot-lines, injecting into them the occasional nugget of brilliance. Koontz is super-productive, writing one or two novels per year. He’s bound to be so rich now that he doesn’t need to write so often. Sometimes I wish he would just stop and carefully examine the merit of every idea he gets, because I think he often chooses to write sub-standard ones simply because they’re there in his head.
Still, I enjoyed Brother Odd. I think it’s better than Forever Odd, but not quite as good as Odd Thomas. I was in the library last weekend and I spotted a fresh new copy of his latest novel, The Darkest Evening of the Year, but I just couldn’t bring myself to borrow it. I may read the new novel one day, but not right now. To be fair, it’s more the feeling you get when you’ve eaten too much cake (and I have read four Koontz novels in the past year), rather than the feeling you might get if someone put a plate full of doggy-doo in front of you. To draw the analogy out further, cake might taste sweet, but there’s not much nutritional value; I’d like to see Koontz cook me a proper meal, and I’m confident he could, if he put his mind to it.