Odd Thomas is a young fry-cook, originally from Pico Mundo, who can see the lingering spirits of dead people and finds his “gift” takes him from one place and situation to the next in order to help those lost souls to their final destination. Initially Roseland, a mansion in the middle of huge and immaculately kept lands in California, seems like a peaceful and safe place for Odd and Annamaria, his mysterious and pregnant friend, to spend some time. That is until Odd meets the ghost of a woman riding a huge black ghost horse. Although the dead can’t talk to Odd it is clear to him that the woman was murdered and that there is something she desperately wants him to do for her. Combined with night-time suddenly descending in the middle of the day and bringing with it deformed and violent monsters it soon becomes clear to Odd that Roseland is anything but a safe haven. This is a place that defies the laws of nature and time, inhabited by a small group of people who appear friendly enough but are talking in riddles, put restrictions on where he can go and turn hostile once he starts digging into their world. The more Odd gets to understand the environment he finds himself in the more he realises that he needs to end the evil that is being enacted there. It also becomes ever more clear that he may well be up against too many enemies this time. His dreams seem to indicate a horrible death for him and it may well be that the only way to end the horror is also a sure way to get himself killed.
I don’t usually read horror stories. In general they don’t work for me because I tend to find myself caught between scenes I really don’t want to picture and too much suspension of disbelieve. I do however make a very happy exception for this series of books by Dean Koontz.
What makes these books so special is the character of Odd Thomas. A young man from a small town, in many ways an innocent and in every way an honourable person, he finds himself up against the most depraved of evils. But while he sees and experiences the horrific deeds people are capable off he manages to retain his own pure core. He may occasionally have to do things he abhors, but the fact of his reluctance combined with the pain his actions cause him means that no matter what fate throws his way, he emerges as the same honest, charming and funny young man at the end of every encounter with evil.
These books are written in a wonderful and chatty style. They are presented as Odd Thomas narrating his own adventures and although he does so with hindsight he doesn’t foreshadow any of what is about to happen. The reader experiences everything, in the moment, with the main character. But, since an author friend of Odd advised him to keep the telling of his stories light since there is so much darkness in the events he shares, these stories are never oppressing and at times almost light-hearted. They are however filled with heart-stopping tension and the sort of suspense that keeps the reader turning the pages at a furious rate.
When I read “Odd Thomas”, the first book in this series, his character captured my heart while his story broke it. Now, five books later I still find myself eagerly awaiting each next instalment, safe in the knowledge that Koontz and Odd will manage to scare and charm me in equal measure.