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Tick Tock

Tick Tock

4.0 170
by Dean Koontz

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Tommy Phan is a successful detective novelist living the American dream in Southern California. One evening he comes home to find a small rag doll on his doorstep. It’s a simple doll, covered entirely in white cloth, with crossed black stitches for the eyes and mouth, and another pair forming an X over the heart. Curious, he brings it inside.


Tommy Phan is a successful detective novelist living the American dream in Southern California. One evening he comes home to find a small rag doll on his doorstep. It’s a simple doll, covered entirely in white cloth, with crossed black stitches for the eyes and mouth, and another pair forming an X over the heart. Curious, he brings it inside.
That night Tommy hears an odd popping sound and looks up to see the stitches breaking over the doll’s heart. And in minutes the fabric of Tommy Phan’s reality will be torn apart. Something terrifying emerges from the pristine white cloth, something that will follow Tommy wherever he goes. Something that he can’t destroy. It wants Tommy’s life, and he doesn’t know why. He has only one ally, a beautiful, strangely intuitive waitress he meets by chance—or by a design far beyond his comprehension. He has too many questions, no answers, and very little time. Because the vicious and demonically clever doll has left this warning on Tommy’s computer screen: The deadline is dawn.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[A] funny, chilling, supernatural suspense novel.”—Providence Journal-Bulletin
“Dean Koontz is not just a master of our darkest dreams, but also a literary juggler.”—The Times (London)
“[Koontz is] a master storyteller. Sometimes humorous, sometimes shocking, but always riveting. His characters sparkle with life.”—The San Diego Union-Tribune
“Koontz writes first-rate suspense, scary and stylish.”—Los Angeles Times

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.34(w) x 7.34(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Out of a cloudless sky on a windless November day came a sudden shadow that swooped across the bright aqua Corvette. Tommy Phan was standing beside the car, in pleasantly warm autumn sunshine, holding out his hand to accept the keys from Jim Shine, the salesman, when the fleeting shade touched him. He heard a brief thrumming like frantic wings. Glancing up, he expected to glimpse a sea gull, but not a single bird was in sight.

Unaccountably, the shadow had chilled him as though a cold wind had come with it, but the air was utterly still. He shivered, felt a blade of ice touch his palm, and jerked his hand back, even as he realized, too late, that it wasn't ice but merely the keys to the Corvette. He looked down in time to see them hit the pavement.

He said, "Sorry," and started to bend over.

Jim Shine said, "No, no. I'll get 'em."

Perplexed, frowning, Tommy raised his gaze to the sky again. Unblemished blue. Nothing in flight.

The nearest trees, along the nearby street, were phoenix palms with huge crowns of fronds, offering no branches on which a bird could alight. No birds were perched on the roof of the car dealership, either.

"Pretty exciting," Shine said.

Tommy looked at him, slightly disoriented. "Huh?"

Shine was holding out the keys again. He resembled a pudgy choirboy with guileless blue eyes. Now, when he winked, his face squinched into a leer that was meant to be comic but that seemed disconcertingly like a glimpse of genuine and usually well-hidden decadence. "Getting that first 'vette is almost as good as getting your first piece of ass."

Tommy was trembling and still inexplicably cold. He accepted the keys. They no longer felt like ice.

The aqua Corvette waited, as sleek and cool as a high mountain spring slipping downhill over polished stones. Overall length: one hundred seventy-eight and a half inches. Wheelbase: ninety-six and two-tenths inches. Seventy and seven-tenths inches in width at the dogleg, forty-six and three-tenths inches high, with a minimum ground clearance of four and two-tenths inches.

Tommy knew the technical specifications of this car better than any preacher knew the details of any Bible story. He was a Vietnamese-American, and America was his religion; the highway was his church, and the Corvette was about to become the sacred vessel by which he partook of communion.

Although he was no prude, Tommy was mildly offended when Shine compared the transcendent experience of Corvette ownership to sex. For the moment, at least, the Corvette was better than any bedroom games, more exciting, purer, the very embodiment of speed and grace and freedom.

Tommy shook Jim Shine's soft, slightly moist hand and slid into the driver's seat. Thirty-six and a half-inches of headroom. Forty-two inches of legroom.

His heart was pounding. He was no longer chilled. In fact, he felt flushed.

He had already plugged his cellular phone into the cigarette lighter. The Corvette was his.

Crouching at the open window, grinning, Shine said, "You're not just a mere mortal any more."

Tommy started the engine. A ninety-degree V-8. Cast-iron block. Aluminum heads with hydraulic lifters.

Jim Shine raised his voice. "No longer like other men. Now you're a god."

Tommy knew that Shine spoke with a good-humored mockery of the cult of the automobile–yet he half believed that it was true. Behind the wheel of the Corvette, with this childhood dream fulfilled, he seemed to be full of the power of the car, exalted.

With the Corvette still in park, he eased his foot down on the accelerator, and the engine responded with a deep-throated growl. Five-point-seven liters of displacement with a ten-and-a-half-to-one compression ratio. Three hundred horsepower.

Rising from a crouch, stepping back, Shine said, "Have fun."

"Thanks, Jim."

Tommy Phan drove away from the Chevrolet dealership into a California afternoon so blue and high and deep with promise that it was possible to believe he would live forever. With no purpose except to enjoy the Corvette, he went west to Newport Beach and then south on the fabled Pacific Coast Highway, past the enormous harbor full of yachts, through Corona Del Mar, along the newly developed hills called Newport Coast, with beaches and gently breaking surf and the sun-dappled ocean to his right, listening to an oldies radio station that rocked with the Beach Boys, the Everly Brothers, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Roy Orbison.

At a stoplight in Laguna Beach, he pulled up beside a classic Corvette: a silver 1963 Sting Ray with boat-tail rear end and split rear window. The driver, an aging surfer type with blond hair and a walrus mustache, looked at the new aqua 'vette and then at Tommy. Tommy made a circle of his thumb and forefinger, letting the stranger know that the Sting Ray was a fine machine, and the guy replied with a smile and thumbs-up sign, which made Tommy feel like part of a secret club.

As the end of the century approached, some people said that the American dream was almost extinguished and that the California dream was ashes. Nevertheless, for Tommy Phan on this wonderful autumn afternoon, the promise of his country and the promise of the coast were burning bright.

The sudden swooping shadow and the inexplicable chill were all but forgotten.

He drove through Laguna Beach and Dana Point to San Clemente, where at last he turned and, as twilight fell, headed north again. Cruising aimlessly. He was getting a feel for the way the Corvette handled. Weighing three thousand two hundred ninety-eight pounds, it hugged the pavement, low and solid, providing sports-car intimacy with the road and incomparable responsiveness. He wove through a number of tree-lined residential streets merely to confirm that the Corvette's curb-to-curb turning diameter was forty feet, as promised.

Entering Dana Point from the south this time, he switched off the radio, picked up his cellular phone, and called his mother in Huntington Beach. She answered on the second ring, speaking Vietnamese, although she had immigrated to the United States twenty-two years ago, shortly after the fall of Saigon, when Tommy was only eight years old. He loved her, but sometimes she made him crazy.

"Hi, Mom."

"Tuong?" she said.

"Tommy," he reminded her, for he had not used his Vietnamese name for many years. Phan Tran Tuong had long ago become Tommy Phan. He meant no disrespect for his family, but he was far more American now than Vietnamese.

His mother issued a long-suffering sigh because she would have to use English. A year after they arrived from Vietnam, Tommy had insisted that he would speak only English; even as a little kid, he had been determined to pass eventually for a native-born American.

"You sound funny," she said with a heavy accent.

"It's the cellular phone."

"Whose phone?"

"The car phone."

"Why you need car phone, Tuong?"

"Tommy. They're really handy, couldn't get along without one. Listen, Mom, guess what–"

"Car phones for big shots."

"Not any more. Everybody's got one."

"I don't. Phone and drive too dangerous."

Tommy sighed–and was slightly rattled by the realization that his sigh sounded exactly like his mother's. "I've never had an accident, Mom."

"You will," she said firmly.

Even with one hand, he was able to handle the Corvette with ease on the long straightaways and wide sweeps of the Coast Highway. Rack-and-pinion steering with power assist. Rear-wheel drive. Four-speed automatic transmission with torque converter. He was gliding.

His mother changed the subject: "Tuong, haven't seen you in weeks."

"We spent Sunday together, Mom. This is only Thursday."

They had gone to church together on Sunday. His father was born a Roman Catholic, and his mother converted before marriage, back in Vietnam, but she also kept a small Buddhist shrine in one corner of their living room. There was usually fresh fruit on the red altar, and sticks of incense bristled from ceramic holders.

"You come to dinner?" she asked.

"Tonight? Gee, no, I can't. See, I just–"

"We have com tay cam."

"–just bought–"

"You remember what is com tay cam–or maybe forget all about your mother's cooking?"

"Of course I know what it is, Mom. Chicken and rice in a clay pot. It's delicious."

"Also having shrimp-and-watercress soup. You remember shrimp-and-watercress soup?"

"I remember, Mom."

Night was creeping over the coast. Above the rising land to the east, the heavens were black and stippled with stars. To the west, the ocean was inky near the shore, striped with the silvery foam of incoming breakers, but indigo toward the horizon, where a final blade of bloody sunlight still cleaved the sea from the sky.

Cruising through the falling darkness, Tommy did feel a little bit like a god, as Jim Shine had promised. But he was unable to enjoy it because, at the same time, he felt too much like a thoughtless and ungrateful son.

His mother said, "Also having stir-fry celery, carrots, cabbage, some peanuts–very good. My nuoc mam sauce."

"You make the best nuoc mam in the world, and the best com tay cam, but I–"

"Maybe you got work there in car with phone, you can drive and cook at same time?"

In desperation he blurted, "Mom, I bought a new Corvette!"

"You bought phone and Corvette?"

"No, I've had the phone for years. The–"

"What's this Corvette?"

"You know, Mom. A car. A sports car."

"You bought sports car?"

"Remember, I always said if I was a big success someday–"

"What sport?"



His mother was stubborn, more of a traditionalist than was the queen of England, and set in her ways, but she was not thick-headed or uninformed. She knew perfectly well what a sports car was, and she knew what a Corvette was, because Tommy's bedroom walls had been papered with pictures of them when he was a kid. She also knew what a Corvette meant to Tommy, what it symbolized; she sensed that, in the Corvette, he was moving still further away from his ethnic roots, and she disapproved. She wasn't a screamer, however, and she wasn't given to scolding, so the best way she could find to register her disapproval was to pretend that his car and his behavior in general were so bizarre as to be virtually beyond her understanding.

"Baseball?" she asked.

"They call the color 'bright aqua metallic.' It's beautiful, Mom, a lot like the color of that vase on your living-room mantel. It's got–"


"Huh? Well, yeah, it's a really good car. I mean, it doesn't cost what a Mercedes–"

"Reporters all drive Corvettes?"

"Reporters? No, I've–"

"You spend everything on car, go broke?"

"No, no. I'd never–"

"You go broke, don't take welfare."

"I'm not broke, Mom."

"You go broke, you come home to live."

"That won't be necessary, Mom."

"Family always here."

Tommy felt like dirt. Although he had done nothing wrong, he felt uncomfortably revealed in the headlights of oncoming cars, as though they were the harsh lamps in a police interrogation room and as though he were trying to conceal a crime.

He sighed and eased the Corvette into the right-hand lane, joining the slower traffic. He wasn't capable of handling the car well, talking on the cellular phone, and sparring with his indefatigable mother.

She said, "Where your Toyota?"

"I traded it on the Corvette."

"Your reporter friends drive Toyota. Honda. Ford. Never see one drive Corvette."

"I thought you didn't know what a Corvette was?"

"I know," she said, "oh, yes, I know," making one of those abrupt hundred-eighty-degree turns that only a mother can perform without credibility whiplash. "Doctors drive Corvette. You are always smart, Tuong, get good grades, could have been doctor."

Sometimes it seemed that most of the Vietnamese-Americans of Tommy's generation were studying to be doctors or were already in practice. A medical degree signified assimilation and prestige, and Vietnamese parents pushed their children toward the healing professions with the aggressive love with which Jewish parents of a previous generation had pushed their children. Tommy, with a degree in journalism, would never be able to remove anyone's appendix or perform cardiovascular surgery, so he would forever be something of a disappointment to his mother and father.

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.

Brief Biography

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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Tick Tock 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 170 reviews.
PatsyAnn More than 1 year ago
My favorite Koontz book of all time. Koontz takes his reader's on a creepy scary adventure of a ride while throwing in some of the funniest lines and most interesting characters he's ever written. You'll love this book. Creepy and scary but I laughed so many times while reading it I couldn't put it down and had to read it in one sitting. You will love the characters and the plot.
cincinnatibengalsfan More than 1 year ago
This book mixes some awesome "comic-relief" dialouge with intense action sequences, throw a little violence mixed with a love story and you got thus story. It was a great read, I couldn't put it down!
DeanKoontz-Fan More than 1 year ago
This is probably the only book I've read of Dean Koontz that actually made me laugh!! I did get tired of the 'Vette obsession in the first few chapters, but then it got to going and I thoroughly enjoyed it. After all the DARK, DARK stuff Koontz writes this was a refreshing, funny read. I especially liked all the dialogue, fun, snappy, good to read!
ColeJustify More than 1 year ago
I got to admit I couldnt get past page 60 because it was just humorously weird and the lead character tommy phan didnt get my attention. But once again I ran out of books to read so I gave it another try and yet again I'm glad I did. It is very offbeat and quirky and weird and pretty humorous and when they introduce the second main character "del payne" thats when the book really takes off. She comes into the story around page 70 or so and from there the story quickens and doesnt disappoint. next to "rya rayne" from twilight eyes , del payne is my favorite character ever developed. Then again my taste is very different. But for the doubters who couldnt get through this book I really suggest you give it another shot and see if you dont fall inlove with del and her smartass humorous/G.I. Jane personality......
Guest More than 1 year ago
Some people don't like this book because it's not scary. You have to understand the reason behind it. DK wrote this book after finishing Dark Rivers of the Heart, one of his darkest stories. When you write such a dark book it can consume you. He wrote Tick Tock as a release for all that darkness. Personally I thought it was refreshing and fantastic. I'm half Filipino so I love the asian love from Dean. I'm also a hopeless romantic (don't tell anyone or I'll thump ya) and found this book to be very much so in a supernatural sci-fi sorta way.
Lucidreader More than 1 year ago
What do you say to a humorous supernatural thriller? I enjoyed it so much. The tongue-in-cheek humor throughout was refreshing. The ghoul amazing. And the characters are superb. I read this novel quickly as it is a little shorter than some. You'll love "Delivery Payne" and "Tommy Phan" the main characters. Enjoy it!
Amy Aylward More than 1 year ago
loved this book so much I sat for the entire day reading it.
Cathy Ray More than 1 year ago
Ticktock is the first Koontz novel I read, years ago. I managed to lose my copy and though I have read this one at least three times over the years I cannot wait to read it again. LOL funny andu suspenseful at the same time. I consider this one a 'must read'.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SLOW, SLOW to start but as I got into it, I started liking it. Rather "different" from my experience with reading Dean Koontz, not quite as creepy as he normally writes. Then, when it finally dawns on you that this is actually more comedic, it's rather a hoot! Enjoyed it overall.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wanted to give up on the book, but hung in there to be happily surprised. Great humor, unusual twists, terrific ending. Great stuff!!!!!
psl_mom More than 1 year ago
this book was hilarous! It was just wonderful. Every happened just as I wanted it to with the two main characters. For the people that are looking for a scary book, you need to find a different one, becasue this one was writen to lighten Koontz's mood after writing his most dark and complex book Dark Rivers of The Heart. But I absoutly loved this book, although I thought the end was kinda strange at first, I really liked it lol.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Very humorous and fun to read. Great characters with a funny and interesting storyline. Love the ending. Recommended to anyone that just wants to take a step out of reality for a little bit.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tick Tock is an outstanding book full of suspensful twists and turns which will have readers hungry for more. I give this book six out of five stars and reccomend it to an older audiance. this book is a must have for fiction lovers!
Guest More than 1 year ago
For being veteran of Dean Koontz novels I must say I was highly dissapointed in this novel. What started as a promising suspense novel turned into a comedy in poor taste. One can't help but grow attatched to his main character Tommy Phan, but as the novel moves along one feels themselves moving farther and farther away from believeability and enjoyment. The plot itself is in poor taste, with a horribly written plot and completely unbelieveable characters. Truely in my opinion this isn't one of his best.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There are times when it does not seem possible to find anything funny in the events that plague Tommy Phan on one night in his life. It starts when he finds a rag doll on his doorstep, he takes this inside and from then on it materialises into a monster that is determined to kill him. He runs, he fights, he seeks help only to find the monster is faster and stronger than he. Along the way Tommy meets the witty and intelligent blonde who, along with her pet dog, saves his life time and again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoy being able to pick up any of the authors books and read through them without any issues or confusion. Some you have to read past info but their books are great.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This so far is one of my favorites! The characters were very interesting In this book and the plot was just amazing. I liked how it wasn't just a doll and how it was incorporated in the story line which you find later on. I especially loved the main characters mother. I would recommened this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its was a really well written book I loved that book. I never heared of Dean before and was told of him and this was the first book i read of his and i have to say I loved this book. It had a lot of twist to it and it was amazing.
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It had a nice flow, not too fast, had some odd twists, it was hard to put it down but overall a really great book oh yea and might want to read it during the day
Anonymous More than 1 year ago