Intensityby Dean Koontz
Chyna Shepherd is a twenty-six-year-old woman whose deeply troubled childhood taught her the hard rules of survival, and whose adult life has been an unrelenting struggle for self-respect and safety. Now rare trust has blossomed for Chyna into friendship with the woman whose family home she is visiting for the weekend: a farm in the Napa Valley surrounded by vineyards… See more details below
Chyna Shepherd is a twenty-six-year-old woman whose deeply troubled childhood taught her the hard rules of survival, and whose adult life has been an unrelenting struggle for self-respect and safety. Now rare trust has blossomed for Chyna into friendship with the woman whose family home she is visiting for the weekend: a farm in the Napa Valley surrounded by vineyards and hills, which Chyna can see from the guest-room window where she sits at one o'clock in the morning, fully dressed, unable to sleep. Suspicions she learned in childhood still make her uneasy in unfamiliar houses - even this one, where her closest friend is sound asleep down the hall. And in this case her most disturbing instincts prove reliable. A man has entered the house, a man who lives for one purpose: to satisfy all appetites as they arise, to immerse himself in sensation, to live without fear, remorse, or limits - to live with intensity. His name is Edgler Foreman Vess. He likes to make words from the letters of his name - God, Demon, Save, Rage, Anger, Fear, Forever, are just a few of them - and then make sentences of the words. One of his favorites, God Fears Me, is sometimes the last thing he whispers to his victims. Edgler Vess is a self-proclaimed "homicidal adventurer": On this night, his adventure - murdering everyone in the house - becomes Chyna's long nightmare. Trapped in Vess's deadly orbit, Chyna thinks only of getting out alive. But when she inadvertently learns the identity of Vess's intended next victim, waiting for him far from the Napa Valley, Chyna is gripped by concern for this other person, who is as innocent as Chyna, and as endangered. Driven now by a sense of responsibility for another, by a purpose and meaning beyond mere self-preservation, Chyna rises to unexpected heights of courage and daring - her only hope as the threat of Edgler Foreman Vess closes in and grows more horrifying moment by moment.
“A taut, nerve-tingling thriller from page one.”—The Christian Science Monitor
“Tumbling, hallucinogenic prose . . . The story does not move so much as rocket up the . . . gloomy highway with the reader in violent pursuit.”—The New York Times
“The most viscerally exciting thriller of the year.”—Publishers Weekly
- Cengage Gale
- Publication date:
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- 6.20(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.98(d)
Read an Excerpt
Chyna Shepherd could not sleep comfortably in strange houses. Throughout her childhood and adolescence, her mother had dragged her from one end of the country to the other, staying nowhere longer than a month or two. So many terrible things had happened to them in so many places that Chyna eventually learned to view each new house not as a new beginning, not with hope for stability and happiness, but with suspicion and quiet dread.
Now she was long rid of her troubled mother and free to stay only where she wished. These days, her life was almost as stable as that of a cloistered nun, as meticulously planned as any bomb squad's procedures for disarming an explosive device, and without any of the turmoil on which her mother had thrived.
Nevertheless, this first night at the Templetons' house, Chyna was reluctant to undress and go to bed. She sat in the darkness in a medallion-back armchair at one of the two windows in the guest room, gazing out at the moonlit vineyards, fields, and hills of the Napa Valley.
Laura was in another room, at the far end of the second-floor hall, no doubt sound asleep, at peace because this house was not at all strange to her.
From the guest-room window, the early-spring vineyards were barely visible. Vague geometric patterns.
Beyond the cultivated rows were gentle hills mantled in long dry grass, silver in the moonlight. An inconstant breeze stirred through the valley, and sometimes the wild grass seemed to roll like ocean waves across the slopes, softly aglimmer with lambent lunar light.
Above the hills was the Coast Range, and above those peaks were cascades of stars and a full white moon. Storm clouds coming across themountains from the northwest would soon darken the night, turning the silver hills first to pewter and then to blackest iron.
When she heard the first scream, Chyna was gazing at the stars, drawn by their cold light as she had been since childhood, fascinated by the thought of distant worlds that might be barren and clean, free of pestilence. At first the muffled cry seemed to be only a memory, a fragment of a shrill argument from another strange house in the past, echoing across time. Often, as a child, eager to hide from her mother and her mother's friends when they were drunk or high, she climbed onto porch roofs or into backyard trees, slipped through windows onto fire escapes, away to secret places far from the fray, where she could study the stars and where voices raised in argument or sexual excitement or shrill drug-induced giddiness came to her as though from out of a radio, from faraway places and people who had no connection whatsoever with her life.
The second cry, although brief and only slightly louder than the first, was indisputably of the moment, not a memory, and Chyna sat forward in her chair. Tense. Head cocked. Listening.
She wanted to believe that the voice had come from outside, so she continued to stare into the night, surveying the vineyards and the hills beyond. Breeze-driven waves swelled through the dry grass on the moon-washed slopes: a water mirage like the ghost tides of an ancient sea.
From elsewhere in the house came a soft thump, as though a heavy object had fallen to a carpeted floor.
Chyna immediately rose from the chair and stood utterly still, expectant.
Trouble often followed voices raised in one kind of passion or another. Sometimes, however, the worst offenses were proceeded by calculated silences and stealth.
She had difficulty reconciling the idea of domestic violence with Paul and Sarah Templeton, who had seemed as kind and loving toward each other as toward their daughter. Nevertheless, appearances and realities were seldom the same, and the human talent for deception was far greater than that of the chameleon, the mockingbird, or the praying mantis, which masked its ferocious cannibalism with a serene and devout posture.
Following the stifled cries and the soft thump, silence sifted down like a snowfall. The hush was eerily deep, as unnatural as that in which the deaf lived. This was the stillness before the pounce, the quietude of the coiled snake.
In another part of the house, someone was standing as motionless as she herself was standing, as alert as she was, intently listening. Someone dangerous. She could sense the predatory presence, a subtle new pressure in the air, not dissimilar to that preceding a violent thunderstorm.
On one level, six years of psychology classes caused her to question her immediate fearful interpretation of those night sounds, which conceivably could be insignificant, after all. Any well-trained psycho-analyst would have a wealth of labels to pin on someone who leaped first to a negative conclusion, who lived in expectation of sudden violence.
But she had to trust her instinct. It had been honed by many years of hard experience.
Intuitively certain that safety lay in movement, she stepped quietly away from the chair at the window, toward the hall door. In spite of the moonglow, her eyes had adjusted to darkness during the two hours that she had sat in the lightless room, and now she eased through the gloom with no fear of blundering into furniture.
She was only halfway to the door when she heard approaching footsteps in the second-floor hall. The heavy, urgent tread was alien to this house.
Unhampered by the interminable second-guessing that accompanied an education in psychology, reverting to the intuition and defenses of childhood, Chyna quickly retreated to the bed. She dropped to her knees.
Farther along the hall, the footsteps stopped. A door opened.
She was aware of the absurdity of attributing rage to the mere opening of a door. The rattle of the knob being turned, the rasp of the unsecured latch, the spike-sharp squeak of an unoiled hingethey were only sounds, neither meek nor furious, guilty nor innocent, and could have been made as easily by a priest as by a burglar. Yet she knew that rage was at work in the night.
Flat on her stomach, she wriggled under the bed, feet toward the headboard. It was a graceful piece of furniture with sturdy gable legs, and fortunately it didn't sit as close to the floor as did most beds. One inch less of clearance would have prevented her from hiding under it.
Footsteps sounded in the hall again.
Another door opened. The guest-room door. Directly opposite the foot of the bed.
Someone switched on the lights.
Chyna lay with her head turned to one side, her right ear pressed to the carpet. Staring out from under the footboard, she could see a man's black boots and the legs of his blue jeans below mid-calf.
He stood just inside the threshold, evidently surveying the room. He would see a bed still neatly made at one o'clock in the morning, with four decorative needlepoint pillows arranged against the headboard.
She had left nothing on the nightstands. No clothes tossed on chairs. The paperback novel that she had brought with her for bedtime reading was in a bureau drawer.
She preferred spaces that were clean and uncluttered to the point of monastic sterility. Her preference might now save her life.
Again a faint doubt, the acquired propensity for self-analysis that plagued all psychology students, flickered through her. If the man in the doorway was someone with a right to be in the housePaul Templeton or Laura's brother, Jack, who lived with his wife in the vineyard manager's bungalow elsewhere on the propertyand if some crisis was unfolding that explained why he would burst into her room without knocking, she was going to appear to be a prime fool, if not a hysteric, when she crawled out from under the bed.
Then, directly in front of the black boots, a fat red dropletanother, then a thirdfell to the wheat-gold carpet. Plop-plop-plop. Blood. The first two soaked into the thick nylon pile. The third held its surface tension, shimmering like a ruby.
Chyna knew the blood wasn't that of the intruder. She tried not to think about the sharp instrument from which it might have fallen.
He moved off to her right, deeper into the room, and she rolled her eyes to follow him. The bed had carved side rails into which the spread was tightly tucked. No overhanging fabric obstructed her view of his boots.
Obversely, without a spread draped to the floor, the space under the bed was more visible to him. From certain angles, he might even be able to look down and see a swatch of her blue jeans, the toe of one of her Rockports, the cranberry-red sleeve of her cotton sweater where it stretched over her bent elbow.
She was thankful that the bed was queen-size, offering more cover than a single or double.
If he was breathing hard, either with excitement or with the rage that she had sensed in his approach, Chyna couldn't hear him. With one ear pressed tightly to the plush carpet, she was half deaf. Wood slats and box springs weighed on her back, and her chest barely had room to expand to accommodate her own shallow, cautious, open-mouth inhalations. The hammering of her compressed heart against her breastbone echoed tympanically within her, and it seemed to fill the claustrophobic confines of her hiding place to such an extent that the intruder was certain to hear.
He went to the bathroom, pushed open the door, and flicked on the lights.
She had put away all her toiletries in the medicine cabinet. Even her toothbrush. Nothing lay out that might alert him to her presence.
But was the sink dry?
On retiring to her room at eleven o'clock, she had used the toilet and then had washed her hands. That was two hours ago. Any residual water in the bowl surely would have drained away or evaporated.
Lemon-scented liquid soap was provided in a pump dispenser at the sink. Fortunately, there was no damp bar of soap to betray her.
She worried about the hand towel. She doubted that it could still be damp two hours after the little use she had made of it. Nonetheless, in spite of a propensity for neatness and order, she might have left it hanging ever so slightly askew or with one telltale wrinkle.
He seemed to stand in the bathroom threshold for an eternity. Then he switched off the fluorescent light and returned to the bedroom.
Occasionally, as a little girland then not so littleChyna had taken refuge under beds. Sometimes they looked for her there; sometimes, though it was the most obvious of all hidey-holes, they never thought to look. Of those who found her, a few had checked under the bed firstbut most had left it for last.
Another red droplet fell to the carpet, as though the beast might be shedding slow tears of blood.
He moved toward the closet door.
Chyna had to turn her head slightly, straining her neck, to keep track of him.
The closet was deep, a walk-in with a chain-pull light in the center. She heard the distinctive snap of the tugged switch, then the clinking of the metal beads in the chain as they rattled against the light bulb.
The Templetons stored their own luggage at the back of that closet. Stacked with the other suitcases, Chyna's single bag and train case were not obviously those of a guest in residence.
She had brought several changes of clothes: two dresses, two skirts, another pair of jeans, a pair of chinos, a leather jacket. Because Chyna was the same size as Laura, the intruder might conclude that the few garments on the rod were just spillovers from the packed closet in Laura's room rather than evidence of a houseguest.
If he had been in Laura's bedroom, however, and had seen the condition of her closetthen what had happened to Laura?
She must not think about that. Not now. Not yet. For the moment, she needed to focus all her thoughts, all her wits, on staying alive.
From the Audio Cassette edition.
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, Anna, and the enduring spirit of their golden, Trixie.
- Newport Beach, California
- Date of Birth:
- July 9, 1945
- Place of Birth:
- Everett, Pennsylvania
- B.S. (major in English), Shippensburg University, 1966
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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(Originally written November 21, 2005) As I mentioned when I reviewed "By the Light of the Moon," I have long been a fan of Dean R. Koontz. I often like his work even better than Stephen King's. The only drawback is that once you've read a few of his books, you soon realize that the majority of his male and female main characters are the same: A man with a sad background; a woman with a terrible background; they find one another in this crazy world; etc. But in "Intensity," although we still get the same woman with a terrible background (and MAN, does Koontz know how to come up with HORRIBLE afflictions for these poor young women!), we are spared her male counterpart. And so I was able to REALLY get into the story this time. And what a story! It's the ultimate being in the wrong place at the wrong time tale, with a young lady named Chyna staying with a friend on the very same night a psychotic killer arrives to murder the entire family! What follows is one tense situation after another; the book is aptly named. I don't want to give too much away, but if you enjoy being on the edge of your seat, this book is perfect! Koontz also does some interesting tricks with the past and present tense telling of the story. The only books I have read with anything like it would be King's "The Cycle of the Werewolf," though the tense only changed once in that book, and Christopher Andrews' "Pandora's Game," which played similar tricks with the POV. Koontz's technique was effective and creepy. The ONLY thing that prevents me from giving this book a 5 star rating (and believe me, it was close) was that there is an "element" (again, I don't want to give too much away) to the psychotic killer that I think was hinted at a little too early. It is revealed near the end, and I'm pretty sure that it was SUPPOSED to be a huge surprise. But I became suspicious of it about 1/3 through the book, and convinced I was right about ½ through the book. I kept hoping I would either be wrong, or that the "secret" would be revealed earlier and not be so much of the climax. But ... not to be. But again, "Intensity" IS a great novel. And I recommend it strongly to anyone who enjoys thrillers! 4-1/2 stars!
I was on the edge of my seat almost the entire time! Mr. Koontz had me guessing what would happen until the very end. Whether you're a Koontz fan or not, this is a must read! Bravo!!!
Years ago I read the book then viewed the series. Never have I forgotten it so again have the book and series. Brilliant writing and characters, it makes you want to scream RUN, HIDE,GO!!!! A horror classic without the gore and unfortunately something that could happen at any time to anyone.....
This book is absolutely amazing. I liked that this Koontz book wasn't all supernatural and not real. This one goes into the mind of the heroine, Chyna, and the mind of a brutal serial killer who puts on a sane and charming face to the rest of the world. Intensity is right! I saw this as a made for tv movie in 1997 (as a 7th grader) and thought it amazing and I went out and got the book. I Just stumbled across it now looking for other books by Koontz and wanted to add my 2 cents. I LOVE this book and I highly highly highly recommend it!
I was immediately drawn into this book and the intensity of the drama that ghas written. Reading this right before bed wasn't my best decision.
Every woman's worst nightmare. Slept with the lights on.
What an "intense" book....I had a hard time putting this book down...suspenseful, thrilling, frustrating, great read!
I am a junior at Holt High School and I have chosen to read the book Intensity by Dean Koontz. This book was recommended to me by a friend. Action and suspense are the only words needed to describe this book. This book is amazing. Koontz does a good job of building up suspense and making the reader visualize exactly what's going on. Chyna Shepherd and the Templeton family are in for a huge experience. The "homicidal adventurer" Edgler Vess is on the lose, and the next target is the Templetons. Chyna finds herself trying to save a girl, who might not even exist. But first she needs to save herself. The book raises the questions: Do I save my self before others? Do I give up on another life? Chyna has to make up her mind quickly or she might fall the next victim to Edgler Vess and his sociopathic life style. If you like murder, suspense, and a book full of twists then Intensity is the book for you. If this book happens to get your attention, then Demon Seed by Dean Koontz would also be another good book for you. I personally give this book 4½ out of 5 easily. This book keeps you interested and builds the suspense for anything that happens next.
Out of the hundreds of books Ive read, this is by far the best one yet. This book turned me in to an avid Dean Koontz fan. Any book i read now, no matter who the author is, seems to lack that certain somthing that DK has in this book. Ive lost count of how many times ive read it.
This was an alright book. There were times when I skipped pages because I quite frankly did not care about Chyna's back story. The 50 pages of dealing with the dogs were painful. Good story but it certainly didn't scare me.
I read this book and it was truly spectacular! Really great suspense and detail. I am looking for any more good koontz books. Any advice?
Koontz is a master at keeping you turning the page. This intense read will keep you glued to the story until you reach the end.
I am a fan of Koontz and I have to say that this is one of my favorites. It hooked me in the first couple of chapters. I felt as if I was involved in the story the entire time I was reading it. I think anyone that picks this books up will enjoy the thrill ride.
this is one of the best dean koontz books i have read
I'm not into scary books, but this particular one had me by the end of chapter one. I feel like Dean Koontz puts you in the mind of the victim and the serial killer. You catch yourself yelling aloud at the victim "What are you doing, stupid!" she's got some balls. Then the weirdo psycho! you wonder how he is able to live in society without people knowing how he is. Could this really be your neighbor who you know and trust?! I could not put this book down for anything, 2..3..4 o'clock in the morning! It was so intense, and I got so scared I would leave my hotel lights on. (That's how good it is) not scary enough for nightmares. I recommend this book to every and anyone who asks me what my favorite book is! I'll never get that story out of my head. Dean Koontz is fantastic!
This book was recommended by a friend of mine and altho I loved it bc the suspense was awesome, the writing technique was way too much details bothered me. So I only gave him 4 stars. I like the twist and turn of the book and awesome ending as I would never have expected it. But the details of an event took forever. It didn't need to be a 480 page book. Some scenes was really dragging. Too much details like I said. But overall a really good book. I will read his other book Velocity also. Looking forward to it.
This book really took a toll on me, though im only 11, i really got into it from the beginning! The ending was by far the best, i never thought that Ariel and Chyna would end up like that, and Edgler, that was very unexpected! But i loved every minute of it. It really kept me on my toes and i just couldnt put it down. It was very intense, though in the middle of the book, i think that it may have told just a little more about Chyna's older past life than we really needed to know, but thats one thing that made it more interesting, but sometimes it was stretched too far. but i really liked the book and i just finished!!!!
THANX! anymore questions about the book email me at
www.myspace.com/huntermx992 and i would be happy to answer any questions about the book!
I am definitely a Koontz fan but I felt that this book fell short of some of his other books that I've read. It was far too wordy. Too much time was spent on Chyna's past and way too many pages were dedicated to her freeing herself from the chains. I would've given this book 5 stars if the majority of the above mentioned were to be cut out of the story. Mr. Vess was definitely a good 'villian.'
I've been starting to read Koontz lately and I must say I've been able to read nothing of his that is not amazing. Intensity is definantly a good read and worth the time, but i read it right after Velocity, and I must say that in my mind it fell far short of its greatness. While still moderately keeping attention, it almost drags at points, but is still a very satisfying adventure worthy only of Koontz.
This is one of the best books I have ever read. The way Dean Koontz writes leaves you on the edge of your seat with your heart literally pounding. I couldn't get my brain to read through each page fast enough. If you are in the mood for a serious thriller, then this book is definitely for you.
This book's title fit it well. The way it was written left you gasping for breath, as if you were there. Impressive Mr.Koontz.
This book had it all . It was suspenseful and had my attention from the beginning to the end. An absolute must read.
The plot of the book defintely keeps you on edge, and it's practically impossible to put the book down without wondering 'what's going to happen next?' Straight until the end of the book, Koontz keeps you interested with two plots that collide to create one great story. It was the first Dean Koontz novel that I read, and once you read this, you'll want to read more of his works.
Intensity is a book that will keep you up well overnight to read. The suspense starts right from the beginning and goes all the way through. I'm on my second time reading this book because it was so good.
This is one of those rare books that is so disturbing it will stay with you for weeks, months after you have turned the last page. Koontz it would seem has the power to reach in and shake the very core of our humanity. It seems the movie industry felt the same because the new thriller High Tension seems to echo every page. But as everyone knows the book is always better than the movie....