Husbandby Dean Koontz
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With each and every new novel, Dean Koontz raises the stakes -- and the pulse rate -- higher than any other author. Now, in what may be his most suspenseful and heartfelt novel ever, he brings us the story of an ordinary man whose extraordinary commitment to his wife will take him on a harrowing journey of adventure, sacrifice, and redemption to the mystery of love itself -- and to a showdown with the darkness that would destroy it forever.
What would you do for love? Would you die? Would you kill?
We have your wife. You can get her back for two million cash. Landscaper Mitchell Rafferty thinks it must be some kind of joke. He was in the middle of planting impatiens in the yard of one of his clients when his cell phone rang. Now he’s standing in a normal suburban neighborhood on a bright summer day, having a phone conversation out of his darkest nightmare.
Whoever is on the other end of the line is dead serious. He has Mitch’s wife and he’s named the price for her safe return. The caller doesn’t care that Mitch runs a small two-man landscaping operation and has no way of raising such a vast sum. He’s confident that Mitch will find a way.
If he loves his wife enough. . . Mitch does love her enough. He loves her more than life itself. He’s got seventy-two hours to prove it. He has to find the two million by then. But he’ll pay a lot more. He’ll pay anything.
From its tense opening to its shattering climax, The Husband is a thriller that will hold you in its relentless grip for every twist, every shock, every revelation…until it lets you go, unmistakably changed. This is a Dean Koontz novel, after all. And there’s no other experience quite like it.
“Moves like a roller coaster without brakes . . . Koontz is America’s No. 1 author of thrillers [and] The Husband is one of his finest novels.”—The Denver Post
“Breakneck speed and complexities . . . Koontz is a master of the edge-of-your-seat, paranoid thriller—and perhaps the leading American practitioner of the form.”—The Star-Ledger
“[A] hair-raising thriller . . . Nothing should be given away about this sinuous nail-biter’s developments . . . all help ratchet up the suspense.”—Booklist (starred review)
Read an Excerpt
By Dean Koontz
Random HouseDean Koontz
All right reserved.
A man begins dying at the moment of his birth. Most
people live in denial of Death's patient courtship until, late in life and deep in sickness, they become aware of him sitting bedside.
Eventually, Mitchell Rafferty would be able to cite the minute that he began to recognize the inevitability of his death: Monday, May 14, 11:43 in the morning--three weeks short of his twenty-eighth birthday.
Until then, he had rarely thought of dying. A born optimist, charmed by nature's beauty and amused by humanity, he had no cause or inclination to wonder when and how his mortality would be proven.
When the call came, he was on his knees.
Thirty flats of red and purple impatiens remained to be planted. The flowers produced no fragrance, but the fertile smell of the soil pleased him.
His clients, these particular homeowners, liked saturated colors: red, purple, deep yellow, hot pink. They would not accept white blooms or pastels.
Mitch understood them. Raised poor, they had built a
successful business by working hard and taking risks. To them, life was intense, and saturated colors reflected the truth of nature's vehemence.
This apparently ordinary but in fact momentous morning, the California sun was a buttery ball. The sky had a basted sheen.
Pleasantly warm, not searing, the daynevertheless left a greasy sweat on Ignatius Barnes. His brow glistened. His chin dripped.
At work in the same bed of flowers, ten feet from Mitch, Iggy looked boiled. From May until July, his skin responded to the sun not with melanin but with a fierce blush. For one-sixth of the year, before he finally tanned, he appeared to be perpetually embarrassed.
Iggy did not possess an understanding of symmetry and harmony in landscape design, and he couldn't be trusted to trim roses properly. He was a hard worker, however, and good if not intellectually bracing company.
"You hear what happened to Ralph Gandhi?" Iggy asked.
"Who's Ralph Gandhi?"
"Mickey Gandhi? I don't know him, either."
"Sure you do," Iggy said. "Mickey, he hangs out sometimes at Rolling Thunder."
Rolling Thunder was a surfers' bar.
"I haven't been there in years," Mitch said.
"Years? Are you serious?"
"I thought you still dropped in sometimes."
"So I've really been missed, huh?"
"I'll admit, nobody's named a bar stool after you. What--did you find someplace better than Rolling Thunder?"
"Remember coming to my wedding three years ago?" Mitch asked.
"Sure. You had great seafood tacos, but the band was woofy."
"They weren't woofy."
"Man, they had tambourines."
"We were on a budget. At least they didn't have an accordion."
"Because playing an accordion exceeded their skill level."
Mitch troweled a cavity in the loose soil. "They didn't have finger bells, either."
Wiping his brow with one forearm, Iggy complained: "I must have Eskimo genes. I break a sweat at fifty degrees."
Mitch said, "I don't do bars anymore. I do marriage."
"Yeah, but can't you do marriage and Rolling Thunder?"
"I'd just rather be home than anywhere else."
"Oh, boss, that's sad," said Iggy.
"It's not sad. It's the best."
"If you put a lion in a zoo three years, six years, he never forgets what freedom was like."
Planting purple impatiens, Mitch said, "How would you know? You ever asked a lion?"
"I don't have to ask one. I am a lion."
"You're a hopeless boardhead."
"And proud of it. I'm glad you found Holly. She's a great lady. But I've got my freedom."
"Good for you, Iggy. And what do you do with it?"
"Do with what?"
"Your freedom. What do you do with your freedom?"
"Anything I want."
"Like, for example?"
"Anything. Like, if I want sausage pizza for dinner, I don't have to ask anyone what she wants."
"If I want to go to Rolling Thunder for a few beers, there's nobody to bitch at me."
"Holly doesn't bitch."
"I can get beer-slammed every night if I want, and nobody's gonna be calling to ask when am I coming home."
Mitch began to whistle "Born Free."
"Some wahine comes on to me," Iggy said, "I'm free to rock and roll."
"They're coming on to you all the time--are they?--those sexy wahines?"
"Women are bold these days, boss. They see what they want, they just take it."
Mitch said, "Iggy, the last time you got laid, John Kerry thought he was going to be president."
"That's not so long ago."
"So what happened to Ralph?"
"Mickey Gandhi's brother."
"Oh, yeah. An iguana bit off his nose."
"Some fully macking ten-footers were breaking, so Ralph and some guys went night-riding at the Wedge."
The Wedge was a famous surfing spot at the end of the Balboa Peninsula, in Newport Beach.
Iggy said, "They packed coolers full of submarine sandwiches and beer, and one of them brought Ming."
"That's the iguana."
"So it was a pet?"
"Ming, he'd always been sweet before."
"I'd expect iguanas to be moody."
"No, they're affectionate. What happened was some wanker, not even a surfer, just a wannabe tag-along, slipped Ming a quarter-dose of meth in a piece of salami."
"Reptiles on speed," Mitch said, "is a bad idea."
"Meth Ming was a whole different animal from clean-and-sober Ming," Iggy confirmed.
Putting down his trowel, sitting back on the heels of his work shoes, Mitch said, "So now Ralph Gandhi is noseless?"
"Ming didn't eat the nose. He just bit it off and spit it out."
"Maybe he didn't like Indian food."
"They had a big cooler full of ice water and beer. They put the nose in the cooler and rushed it to the hospital."
"Did they take Ralph, too?"
"They had to take Ralph. It was his nose."
"Well," Mitch said, "we are talking about boardheads."
"They said it was kinda blue when they fished it out of the ice water, but a plastic surgeon sewed it back on, and now it's not blue anymore."
"What happened to Ming?"
"He crashed. He was totally amped-out for a day. Now he's his old self."
"That's good. It's probably hard to find a clinic that'll do iguana rehab."
Mitch got to his feet and retrieved three dozen empty plastic plant pots. He carried them to his extended-bed pickup.
The truck stood at the curb, in the shade of an Indian laurel. Although the neighborhood had been built-out only five years earlier, the big tree had already lifted the sidewalk. Eventually the insistent roots would block lawn drains and invade the sewer system.
The developer's decision to save one hundred dollars by
not installing a root barrier would produce tens of thousands
in repair work for plumbers, landscapers, and concrete contractors.
When Mitch planted an Indian laurel, he always used a root barrier. He didn't need to make future work for himself. Green growing Nature would keep him busy.
The street lay silent, without traffic. Not the barest breath of a breeze stirred the trees.
From a block away, on the farther side of the street, a man and a dog approached. The dog, a retriever, spent less time walking than it did sniffing messages left by others of its kind.
The stillness pooled so deep that Mitch almost believed he could hear the panting of the distant canine.
Golden: the sun and the dog, the air and the promise of the day, the beautiful houses behind deep lawns.
Mitch Rafferty could not afford a home in this neighborhood. He was satisfied just to be able to work here.
You could love great art but have no desire to live in a museum.
He noticed a damaged sprinkler head where lawn met sidewalk. He got his tools from the truck and knelt on the grass, taking a break from the impatiens.
His cell phone rang. He unclipped it from his belt, flipped it open. The time was displayed--11:43--but no caller's number showed on the screen. He took the call anyway.
"Big Green," he said, which was the name he'd given his
two-man business nine years ago, though he no longer remembered why.
"Mitch, I love you," Holly said.
"Whatever happens, I love you."
She cried out in pain. A clatter and crash suggested a struggle.
Alarmed, Mitch rose to his feet. "Holly?"
Some guy said something, some guy who now had the phone. Mitch didn't hear the words because he was focused on the background noise.
Holly squealed. He'd never heard such a sound from her, such fear.
"Sonofabitch," she said, and was silenced by a sharp crack, as though she'd been slapped.
The stranger on the phone said, "You hear me, Rafferty?"
"Holly? Where's Holly?"
Now the guy was talking away from the phone, not to Mitch: "Don't be stupid. Stay on the floor."
Another man spoke in the background, his words unclear.
The one with the phone said, "She gets up, punch her. You want to lose some teeth, honey?"
She was with two men. One of them had hit her. Hit her.
Mitch couldn't get his mind around the situation. Reality suddenly seemed as slippery as the narrative of a nightmare.
A meth-crazed iguana was more real than this.
Near the house, Iggy planted impatiens. Sweating, red from the sun, as solid as ever.
"That's better, honey. That's a good girl."
Mitch couldn't draw breath. A great weight pressed on his lungs. He tried to speak but couldn't find his voice, didn't know what to say. Here in bright sun, he felt casketed, buried alive.
"We have your wife," said the guy on the phone.
Mitch heard himself ask, "Why?"
"Why do you think, asshole?"
Mitch didn't know why. He didn't want to know. He didn't want to reason through to an answer because every possible answer would be a horror.
"I'm planting flowers."
"What's wrong with you, Rafferty?"
"That's what I do. Plant flowers. Repair sprinklers."
"Are you buzzed or something?"
"I'm just a gardener."
"So we have your wife. You get her back for two million cash."
Mitch knew it wasn't a joke. If it were a joke, Holly would have to be in on it, but her sense of humor was not cruel.
"You've made a mistake."
"You hear what I said? Two million."
"Man, you aren't listening. I'm a gardener."
"I have like eleven thousand bucks in the bank."
Brimming with fear and confusion, Mitch had no room for anger. Compelled to clarify, perhaps more for himself than for the caller, he said, "I just run a little two-man operation."
"You've got until midnight Wednesday. Sixty hours. We'll be in touch about the details."
Mitch was sweating. "This is nuts. Where would I get two million bucks?"
"You'll find a way."
The stranger's voice was hard, implacable. In a movie, Death might sound like this.
"It isn't possible," Mitch said.
"You want to hear her scream again?"
"Do you love her?"
"Really love her?"
"She's everything to me."
How peculiar, that he should be sweating yet feel so cold.
"If she's everything to you," said the stranger, "then you'll find a way."
"There isn't a way."
"If you go to the cops, we'll cut her fingers off one by one, and cauterize them as we go. We'll cut her tongue out. And her eyes. Then we'll leave her alone to die as fast or slow as she wants."
The stranger spoke without menace, in a matter-of-fact tone, as if he were not making a threat but were instead merely explaining the details of his business model.
Mitchell Rafferty had no experience of such men. He might as well have been talking to a visitor from the far end of the galaxy.
He could not speak because suddenly it seemed that he might so easily, unwittingly say the wrong thing and ensure Holly's death sooner rather than later.
The kidnapper said, "Just so you'll know we're serious . . ."
After a silence, Mitch asked, "What?"
"See that guy across the street?"
Mitch turned and saw a single pedestrian, the man walking the slow dog. They had progressed half a block.
The sunny day had a porcelain glaze. Rifle fire shattered the stillness, and the dogwalker went down, shot in the head.
"Midnight Wednesday," said the man on the phone. "We're damn serious."
Excerpted from The Husband by Dean Koontz Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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What People are Saying About This
"Dean Koontz thrillers are the perfect way to chill out on a hot summer day."—The Chicago Tribune
"Fast-paced.... Koontz often pulls the rug out from under his readers' assumptions about his characters and their motives."—Associated Press, Book Reveiw
"Koontz ratchets up the tension.... [A] pulse-pounding thriller with echoes of Hitchcock and Cornell Woolrich."—Publishers Weekly
Meet the Author
Dean Koontz, the author of many #1 New York Times bestsellers, lives in Southern California with his wife, Gerda, their golden retriever, Elsa, and the enduring spirits of their goldens, Trixie and Anna.
- Newport Beach, California
- Date of Birth:
- July 9, 1945
- Place of Birth:
- Everett, Pennsylvania
- B.S. (major in English), Shippensburg University, 1966
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I've always thought of Dean Koontz as the master of psychological suspense. His novels are aways full of weird and over the top characters that he makes believable and then he puts them in situations which are weird and over the top and makes them believable. This time around Dean changes things up a bit. He takes an average Joe and puts him in a seemingly no win situation. Mitch Rafferty, owner of a two man landscaping business gets the phone call no husband would want. Someone has his wife. That's the bad news. The worse news is, the someone wants $2 million in 60 hours. He doesn't have that kind of money and they know it. Still, they're convinced he'll find away to get the funds. If he loves his wife. He loves her. No question. The kidnappers tighten the screws from that moment on by first killing someone 'innocent' so Mitch will know they mean business. Things go down hill for our hero from there. One of the things I really liked about this story was how Dean shows two people who were raised in the same dysfunctional environment could respond to that upbringing in totally different ways. You'll have to read the book to find out what I mean. I try to never include plot spoilers in my reviews. I gave a rating of 5 stars because I loved the story. Koontz in one of my all time favorite novelists. I dream of one day writing my own novels half as well as he does. However, this novel wasn't without its problems for me. One, the scenes with the wife when she's held captive just didn't work for me. When I read the sections with Mitch it was like I was right there with him. Almost like what happened to him happened to me. With those sections devoted to his wife I felt somehow distant from the situation. I don't know why. I don't believe this is the desired affect Dean meant. The second thing I didn't care for was just a pet peeve of mine and it didn't really take away from the story. Most stories have this same element in them. I've just never understood why. Here's what I'm talking about. The novel is 68 chapters. In chapter one Mitch learns of his wife's kidnapping. From chapter two on Mitch is doing everything he can to get her back. After all that can happen happens, we come to chapter 68. It's 3 years later and everything is normal again. What's the rub for me? Mitch did some pretty terrible and even illegal things in an attempt to get his wife back. Seemingly, there were no repercussions for his actions. I know one would say he was justified, but I'm just not sure how the law would take this in the real world. Maybe that's the point. It's not real life, it's a novel. And a great thrill ride it is. Pick up a copy and see what you think. I believe you won't be disappointed.
I wrote a pretty scathing review of 'Lightning,' also by Dean Koontz a little while ago. I hated that book. But now let's talk about some good Koontz, shall we? I read this book in about a week (which may not seem like a too short of a time, but to me it is, I'm a slow reader.) And I loved every minute of it. Well sort of. The beginning was epicly epic, the plot of the novel exploded in your face, there was no way NOT to read the rest of it after the first one hundred pages (Which I read in one night). The one hundred pages after that were also very good, but not as good, they seemed to stall (As many of Koontz's books do at some point) a little bit, but were very enjoyable. The last hundred pages are why this book is recieving a 4/5 instead of a 5/5. They weren't bad at all, but they weren't very great either. It seems to slow down muchos, and get bogged down in the details (Another very common attribute of Koontz's writing) The pages which chronicled the standoff between Mitch and the bad guy were, to me, the most boring part. Koontz has many trademarks in his books, one of them is dogs, another is a way too keen sense of plants, another is the desert...Oh god, it was hard to read those pages. For some reason I can't hear Koontz talk about the desert and not cringe a little. He describes it in such boring detail, he doesn't really bring anything new to the table. Not like Stephen King, who I'm sure would find some way to make the desert interesting. But other than getting slow and over detailed in a few points the book was very good, very fast, a thrill ride. I liked it a lot. The ending was good, it was happy, as most of Koontz's endings.
This book started off so wonderfully intense and became mediocre in the end. Koontz spends too much time describing the unnecessary. I hoped for something great , but did not get it.
I have read all of dean koontz books and this one was not up to parr. I wonder if he is getting mellow with his writing over the years.
So this book took me less than three days to read! Would of been much faster but real busy i had to write a review because my friend and i decided to read the same book ' One part of the book made me say oh my god outload on the bus many eyes looking at me That day i knew i was reading a fab book
never have I read a book that moves so intensely fast (in a good way!). Not once did I read something that made me say "meh, he could have left that out." This is a must-read for all Koontz fans :)
Love the story idea, but wish another author had written the book. Koontz has a tendency to go on and on. He did so much of that in this book, I fell asleep twice.
Great pemise and cover description to get you excited to buy the book but thats where the excitement ends. Not at all on the level of Grisham and Patterson
I have read many of Mr. Koontz's wonderful novels over the years, and I found this to be lacking in his usual masterful use of language. Most of this book was dialog, resulting in very short and clipped paragraphs.
Koontz is always good
Absolutely loved it ! Could not put it down !
I enoyed the plot, but everything is detached, nothing seemed to mesh together, and the incessant horticulture references were annoying. How can anyone not know their brother is pure evil? Why would a brother throw another brother under the bus? It seemed the explanation of the family dynamic should of been in the beginning, it would have made for more interesting reading. The New Mexico references were not only annoying, but odd and made no sense. Koontz, you do better with horror than mystery.
I'm so confused. I have been a Dean Koontz fan for years, ever since I first found Strangers in my high-school library. There had NEVER been a book that I didn't like, until the release of VELOCITY. I actually, almost, nearly, dare I say it?--hated that book. Then along comes THE HUSBAND, and I wanted so badly to love it like I loved previous books like WATCHERS, ODD THOMAS, and PRODIGAL SON. Alas, it was not to be.
The premise of thrusting an ordinary man (a gardener/landscaper) into unbelievably horrific circumstances was a good one. Unfortunately, I couldn't "like" the characters. Said gardener was bland and boring; his wife (who has been kidnapped) seemed to be little more than an afterthought. The "extra" characters in the book didn't seem to flesh anything out at all. To be honest, I didn't finish the story, although I did flip to the last chapter to see how it ended.
Overall, it was okay, but I long for the days of more supernatural magic that Mr. Koontz's early books brought.
Although this was considered a New York Times best seller, I put it down after the first chapter and will donate it to the Veteran's D.A.V. thrift store. The author may be a prolific writer, but the contents doesn't have anything beneficial in my opinion. I'm glad the person who gave this to me as a gift didn't pay much for it. Perhaps the author can write about something that is interesting instead of material that is boring. I'm just being forthright here and my intention is not to be disparaging. If I couldn't get beyond the first chapter, what does that mean?
I miss the old Koontz of Phantoms, Watchers and Seize the Night! While I can understand Koontz's frustration being labled a 'horror' writer over the years, the fact is, that horror is where he really shines, ok, supernatural fiction too. His foray into just thriller or psychological thriller is disappointing and dull.
Wow, where do I start. I have been reading Dean Koontz forever and I can't but wonder where did this book come from. It doesn't fit the Koontz flare. Where was the hint of the supernatural, where was the psychic, mystic alien or 'somewhat off' characters? They were all missing. I was so anxious to read this latest Konntz book and I have to say that I was disappoiinted. The kidnapping plot was lame and predictable.
I'm so confused. I have been a Dean Koontz fan for years, ever since I first found STRANGERS in my high-school library. There had NEVER been a book that I didn't like, until the release of VELOCITY. I actually, almost, nearly, dare I say it?--hated that book. Then along comes THE HUSBAND, and I wanted so badly to love it like I loved previous books like WATCHERS, ODD THOMAS, and FRANKENSTEIN. Alas, it was not to be. The premise of thrusting an ordinary man (a gardner/landscaper) into unbelievably horrific circumstances was a good one. Unfortunately, I couldn't 'like' the characters. Said gardner was bland and boring his wife (who has been kidnapped) seemed to be little more than an afterthought. The 'extra' characters in the book didn't seem to flesh anything out at all. To be honest, I didn't finish the story, although I did flip to the last chapter to see how it ended. Overall, it was okay, but I long for the days of more supernatural magic that Mr. Koontz's early books brought.
A little cliche, but still a roller-coaster of emotions and suspense. Dean Koontz definitely knows how to keep readers on the edge of their metaphorical seats. The Husband is a good example of someone who will do anything to save the one they love. Whether it be stealing money, grand theft auto, or murder. It was difficult to keep up with, sometimes. The characters were constantly moving forward in the plot, but it was good at keeping you interested in what they were doing. You can see this review, and many others, on the CommonBookSense Blog: http://bit.ly/29Iu5gt
I am a huge fan of Dean Kunz books and he didn't let me down. I thought some of the middle was a bit weak, but for the most part it kept me on my toes....
I´m not a reader, but this book got me, I could not stop reading until I finished.
Easy reading, had me stay up late reading it. Shocking discovering of siblings and $. Great story,