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Bill Wile is an easygoing, hardworking guy who leads a quiet, ordinary life. But that ...
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Bill Wile is an easygoing, hardworking guy who leads a quiet, ordinary life. But that is about to change. One evening, after his usual eight-hour bartending shift, he finds a typewritten note under the windshield wiper of his car. If you don’t take this note to the police and get them involved, I will kill a lovely blond schoolteacher. If you do take this note to the police, I will instead kill an elderly woman active in charity work. You have four hours to decide. The choice is yours.
It seems like a sick joke, and Bill’s friend on the police force, Lanny Olson, thinks so too. His advice to Bill is to go home and forget about it. Besides, what could they do even if they took the note seriously? No crime has actually been committed. But less than twenty-four hours later, a young blond schoolteacher is found murdered, and it’s Bill’s fault: he didn’t convince the police to get involved. Now he’s got another note, another deadline, another ultimatum–and two new lives hanging in the balance.
Suddenly Bill’s average, seemingly innocuous life takes on the dimensions and speed of an accelerating nightmare. Because the notes are coming faster, the deadlines growing tighter, and the killer becoming bolder and crueler with everycommunication–until Bill is isolated with the terrifying knowledge that he alone has the power of life and death over a psychopath’s innocent victims. Until the struggle between good and evil is intensely personal. Until the most chilling words of all are: The choice is yours.
“Just in time for summer, Dean Koontz again delivers a top-notch thriller full of well-drawn characters and anxiety-spiked sequences.”—Chicago Tribune
“Koontz keeps the focus of Velocity tight…. Velocity will have readers turning the pages—and checking to make sure their doors are locked and bolted.”—The Associated Press
From the Hardcover edition.
THE CHOICE IS YOURS
With draft beer and a smile, Ned Pearsall raised a toast to his deceased neighbor, Henry Friddle, whose death greatly pleased him.
Henry had been killed by a garden gnome. He had fallen off the roof of his two-story house, onto that cheerful-looking figure. The gnome was made of concrete. Henry wasn't.
A broken neck, a cracked skull: Henry perished on impact.
This death-by-gnome had occurred four years previously. Ned Pearsall still toasted Henry's passing at least once a week.
Now, from a stool near the curve of the polished mahogany bar, an out-of-towner, the only other customer, expressed curiosity at the enduring nature of Ned's animosity.
"How bad a neighbor could the poor guy have been that you're still so juiced about him?"
Ordinarily, Ned might have ignored the question. He had even less use for tourists than he did for pretzels.
The tavern offered free bowls of pretzels because they were cheap. Ned preferred to sustain his thirst with well-salted peanuts.
To keep Ned tipping, Billy Wiles, tending bar, occasionally gave him a bag of Planters.
Most of the time Ned had to pay for his nuts. This rankled him either because he could not grasp the economic realities of tavern operation or because he enjoyed being rankled, probably the latter.
Although he had a head reminiscent of a squash ball and the heavy rounded shoulders of a sumo wrestler, Ned was an athletic man only if you thought barroom jabber and grudge-holding qualified as sports. In those events, he was an Olympian.
Regarding the late Henry Friddle, Ned could be as talkative with outsiders as with lifelong residents of Vineyard Hills. When, as
now, the only other customer was a stranger, Ned found silence even less congenial than conversation with a "foreign devil."
Billy himself had never been much of a talker, never one of those barkeeps who considered the bar a stage. He was a listener.
To the out-of-towner, Ned declared, "Henry Friddle was a pig."
The stranger had hair as black as coal dust with traces of ash at the temples, gray eyes bright with dry amusement, and a softly resonant voice. "That's a strong word--pig."
"You know what the pervert was doing on his roof? He was trying to piss on my dining-room windows."
Wiping the bar, Billy Wiles didn't even glance at the tourist. He'd heard this story so often that he knew all the reactions to it.
"Friddle, the pig, figured the altitude would give his stream more distance," Ned explained.
The stranger said, "What was he--an aeronautical engineer?"
"He was a college professor. He taught contemporary literature."
"Maybe reading that stuff drove him to suicide," the tourist said, which made him more interesting than Billy had first thought.
"No, no," Ned said impatiently. "The fall was accidental."
"Was he drunk?"
"Why would you think he was drunk?" Ned wondered.
The stranger shrugged. "He climbed on a roof to urinate on your windows."
"He was a sick man," Ned explained, plinking one finger against his empty glass to indicate the desire for another round.
Drawing Budweiser from the tap, Billy said, "Henry Friddle was consumed by vengeance."
After silent communion with his brew, the tourist asked Ned Pearsall, "Vengeance? So you urinated on Friddle's windows first?"
"It wasn't the same thing at all," Ned warned in a rough tone that advised the outsider to avoid being judgmental.
"Ned didn't do it from his roof," Billy said.
"That's right. I walked up to his house, like a man, stood on his lawn, and aimed at his dining-room windows."
"Henry and his wife were having dinner at the time," Billy said.
Before the tourist might express revulsion at the timing of this assault, Ned said, "They were eating quail, for God's sake."
"You showered their windows because they were eating quail?"
Ned sputtered with exasperation. "No, of course not. Do I look insane to you?" He rolled his eyes at Billy.
Billy raised his eyebrows as though to say What do you expect of a tourist?
"I'm just trying to convey how pretentious they were," Ned clarified, "always eating quail or snails, or Swiss chard."
"Phony bastards," the tourist said with such a light seasoning of mockery that Ned Pearsall didn't detect it, although Billy did.
"Exactly," Ned confirmed. "Henry Friddle drove a Jaguar,
and his wife drove a car--you won't believe this--a car made in Sweden."
"Detroit was too common for them," said the tourist.
"Exactly. How much of a snob do you have to be to bring a car all the way from Sweden?"
The tourist said, "I'll wager they were wine connoisseurs."
"Big time! Did you know them or something?"
"I just know the type. They had a lot of books."
"You've got 'em nailed," Ned declared. "They'd sit on the front porch, sniffing their wine, reading books."
"Right out in public. Imagine that. But if you didn't pee on their dining-room windows because they were snobs, why did you?"
"A thousand reasons," Ned assured him. "The incident of the skunk. The incident of the lawn fertilizer. The dead petunias."
"And the garden gnome," Billy added as he rinsed glasses in the bar sink.
"The garden gnome was the last straw," Ned agreed.
"I can understand being driven to aggressive urination by pink plastic flamingos," said the tourist, "but, frankly, not by a gnome."
Ned scowled, remembering the affront. "Ariadne gave it my face."
"Henry Friddle's wife. You ever heard a more pretentious name?"
"Well, the Friddle part brings it down to earth."
"She was an art professor at the same college. She sculpted the gnome, created the mold, poured the concrete, painted it herself."
"Having a sculpture modeled after you can be an honor."
The beer foam on Ned's upper lip gave him a rabid appearance as he protested: "It was a gnome, pal. A drunken gnome. The nose was as red as an apple. It was carrying a beer bottle in each hand."
"And its fly was unzipped," Billy added.
"Thanks so much for reminding me," Ned grumbled. "Worse, hanging out of its pants was the head and neck of a dead goose."
"How creative," said the tourist.
"At first I didn't know what the hell that meant--"
"Yeah, yeah. I figured it out. Everybody who walked past their place saw it, and got a laugh at my expense."
"Wouldn't need to see the gnome for that," said the tourist.
Misunderstanding, Ned agreed: "Right. Just hearing about it, people were laughing. So I busted up the gnome with a sledgehammer."
"And they sued you."
"Worse. They set out another gnome. Figuring I'd bust up the first, Ariadne had cast and painted a second."
"I thought life was mellow here in the wine country."
"Then they tell me," Ned continued, "if I bust up the second one, they'll put a third on the lawn, plus they'll manufacture a bunch and sell 'em at cost to anyone who wants a Ned Pearsall gnome."
"Sounds like an empty threat," said the tourist. "Would there really be people who'd want such a thing?"
"Dozens," Billy assured him.
"This town's become a mean place since the pate-and-brie crowd started moving in from San Francisco," Ned said sullenly.
"So when you didn't dare take a sledgehammer to the second gnome, you were left with no choice but to pee on their windows."
"Exactly. But I didn't just go off half-cocked. I thought about the situation for a week. Then I hosed them."
"After which, Henry Friddle climbed on his roof with a full bladder, looking for justice."
"Yeah. But he waited till I had a birthday dinner for my mom."
"Unforgivable," Billy judged.
"Does the Mafia attack innocent members of a man's family?" Ned asked indignantly.
Although the question had been rhetorical, Billy played for his tip: "No. The Mafia's got class."
"Which is a word these professor types can't even spell," Ned said. "Mom was seventy-six. She could have had a heart attack."
"So," the tourist said, "while trying to urinate on your dining-room windows, Friddle fell off his roof and broke his neck on the Ned Pearsall gnome. Pretty ironic."
"I don't know ironic," Ned replied. "But it sure was sweet."
"Tell him what your mom said," Billy urged.
Following a sip of beer, Ned obliged: "My mom told me, 'Honey, praise the Lord, this proves there's a God.'"
After taking a moment to absorb those words, the tourist said, "She sounds like quite a religious woman."
"She wasn't always. But at seventy-two, she caught pneumonia."
"It's sure convenient to have God at a time like that."
"She figured if God existed, maybe He'd save her. If He didn't exist, she wouldn't be out nothing but some time wasted on prayer."
"Time," the tourist advised, "is our most precious possession."
"True," Ned agreed. "But Mom wouldn't have wasted much because mostly she could pray while she watched TV."
"What an inspiring story," said the tourist, and ordered a beer.
Billy opened a pretentious bottle of Heineken, provided a fresh chilled glass, and whispered, "This one's on the house."
"That's nice of you. Thanks. I'd been thinking you're quiet and soft-spoken for a bartender, but now maybe I understand why."
From his lonely outpost farther along the bar, Ned Pearsall raised his glass in a toast. "To Ariadne. May she rest in peace."
Although it might have been against his will, the tourist was engaged again. Of Ned, he asked, "Not another gnome tragedy?"
"Cancer. Two years after Henry fell off the roof. I sure wish it hadn't happened."
Pouring the fresh Heineken down the side of his tilted glass, the stranger said, "Death has a way of putting our petty squabbles in perspective."
"I miss her," Ned said. "She had the most spectacular rack, and she didn't always wear a bra."
The tourist twitched.
"She'd be working in the yard," Ned remembered almost dreamily, "or walking the dog, and that fine pair would be bouncing and swaying so sweet you couldn't catch your breath."
The tourist checked his face in the back-bar mirror, perhaps to see if he looked as appalled as he felt.
"Billy," Ned asked, "didn't she have the finest set of mamas you could hope to see?"
"She did," Billy agreed.
Ned slid off his stool, shambled toward the men's room, paused at the tourist. "Even when cancer withered her, those mamas didn't shrink. The leaner she got, the bigger they were in proportion. Almost to the end, she looked hot. What a waste, huh, Billy?"
"What a waste," Billy echoed as Ned continued to the men's room.
After a shared silence, the tourist said, "You're an interesting guy, Billy Barkeep."
"Me? I've never hosed anyone's windows."
"You're like a sponge, I think. You take everything in."
Billy picked up a dishcloth and polished some pilsner glasses that had previously been washed and dried.
"But then you're a stone too," the tourist said, "because if you're squeezed, you give nothing back."
Billy continued polishing the glasses.
The gray eyes, bright with amusement, brightened further. "You're a man with a philosophy, which is unusual these days, when most people don't know who they are or what they believe, or why."
This, too, was a style of barroom jabber with which Billy was familiar, though he didn't hear it often. Compared to Ned Pearsall's rants, such boozy observations could seem erudite; but it was all just beer-based psychoanalysis.
He was disappointed. Briefly, the tourist had seemed different from the usual two-cheeked heaters who warmed the barstool vinyl.
Smiling, shaking his head, Billy said, "Philosophy. You give me too much credit."
The tourist sipped his Heineken.
Although Billy had not intended to say more, he heard himself continue: "Stay low, stay quiet, keep it simple, don't expect much,
enjoy what you have."
The stranger smiled. "Be self-sufficient, don't get involved, let the world go to Hell if it wants."
"Maybe," Billy conceded.
"Admittedly, it's not Plato," said the tourist, "but it is a philosophy."
"You have one of your own?" Billy asked.
"Right now, I believe that my life will be better and more meaningful if I can just avoid any further conversation with Ned."
"That's not a philosophy," Billy told him. "That's a fact."
At ten minutes past four, Ivy Elgin came to work. She was a waitress as good as any and an object of desire without equal.
Billy liked her but didn't long for her. His lack of lust made him unique among the men who worked or drank in the tavern.
Ivy had mahogany hair, limpid eyes the color of brandy, and the body for which Hugh Hefner had spent his life searching.
Although twenty-four, she seemed genuinely unaware that she was the essential male fantasy in the flesh. She was never seductive.
Excerpted from Velocity 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted February 25, 2009
(Originally written January 23, 2006)
I was a Dean R. Koontz fan long ago, and since I've gotten back into reading, I see Mr. Koontz has remained as skilled as ever. I recently read and was thrilled by "Intensity," but even so, I was STILL blown away by "Velocity!"
What can I say? Once this novel got going, which did not take any time, every chapters, almost every PAGE had me on the edge of my seat! Koontz throws you in with hero Billy and never lets either of you rest.
This novel is also strong in the What-Would-YOU-Do? category. While "Intensity" took me along for the ride, "Velocity" made me feel even more like I was at the center of the story. I kept trying to figure out how I would handle each situation even as I waited to see what Billy would do next.
As is Koontz's habit, we are once again treated to his standard "Man with a sad background" character. But this time, the "Woman with a terrible background" character is absent (or at least in a coma). And so, as with "Intensity," I was able to look past this "stock" character and focus more on the story.
As a result, I have no real complaints about Koontz's work this time around. "Velocity" edges out "Dream Parlor" by Christopher Andrews as my current favorite novel, and I am pleased to give another 5-star rating.
7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 12, 2008
What a ride. The plot is slick, fast-paced and very entertaining. The ending is both satisfying and touching. As in much of Koontz's work, several plot points do strain credibility. This is but a minor fault in a popular fiction designed to entertain. When Koontz is on, he is ON. Quite fun. Highly recommended. Note that there are no supernatural or paranormal elements to this story. The horrors are strictly of the human variety, and, in my opinion, that makes them even more scary.
6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 25, 2011
I Also Recommend:
Velocity was a great thriller. The suspense kept me reading it until I finished it and uncovered the mystery. The premise is that Billy, a hardworking, quiet bartender, recieves a note telling him he has the power to determine who the writer of the note murders. Billy decides that the note is a malicious prank and ignores it. He's ready to move on until one of the possible victims the note indicated ends up dead. More notes arrive and Billy realizes that he's dealing with a serial killer who's so expertly tangled him in his murderous web that he can't even contact the police.
I love how Dean Koontz took a premise so frightening and made it wholly believable. He had red herrings and dozens of clues that kept me guessing. Koontz managed to keep the storyline of the relentless killer going at a breakneck speed while developing all the characters. In Velocity there were two mysteries side by side- the mystery of the killer's identity and motivation and the mystery of how Billy is more than just an average bartender. I loved how I had to keep reaing to peel back layer upon layer of who the protaganist really was. It added to the suspense. The climax was completely suprising and thrilling and led to a perfectly written conclusion. I loved this book because it also dealt with deeper topics like the human condition. So it offered entertainment and integrity. Dean Koontz is an excellent writer and I definitely recommend this one.
5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 23, 2010
I Also Recommend:
I've been a big fan of Dean Koontz since reading Watchers the year after it came out, and I normally like everything he writes. Velocity is a decent novel, but it represents a departure from some of Koontz's normal style conventions. Although I appreciate the effort to do something different, to experiment a bit, I thought the experiment was unsuccessful. The book is tense and suspenseful, as Koontz novels always are, but throughout most of the novel I felt it lacked something. It was not until the end that I realized what.
Probably my favorite aspect of Dean Koontz's novels is his wonderful characterization, and his startling ability, novel after novel, with character after character, to make me love and care about his characters. His novels are "page turners" because I care so much about the characters. I worry about them. I want them to make it. And so I keep reading; I can't put the books down.
In Velocity, however, I did not feel the same way. There's really only one character. The book is told entirely from his perspective -- it could easily have been written in first person format. There are no scene breaks, no shifts into someone else's mind. Although that is fine, the problem here is that I didn't really like main character Billy Wiles very much. I didn't find myself DIS-liking him either... But I didn't care about him the way I've cared about characters in all of Koontz's other novels. Billy becomes somewhat likable in the very last few chapters, but it happens too late, and for the bulk of the book I found him uninteresting.
Don't get me wrong. Velocity is not a bad book. If this were a novel by some other author I'd never heard of, I'd probably say it was pretty decent. But as a Koontz novel, I felt it was one of Dean's weaker offerings. My advice is, save this for last, and read all the other ones first. They're all better than this one.
3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 8, 2009
Posted July 11, 2009
THIS BOOK IS GREAT. I WAS SO INTO IT THAT IT WAS LIKE I WAS THERE. THE SUSPENSE IS UNBELIEVABLE. THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS I'VE READ. IT KEPT ME ON THE EDGE OF MY SEAT. WANTING MORE, AND AFRAID TO TURN THE PAGE. IT WAS ONE SUPRISE AFTER THE NEXT. EASY, FAST, AND EXCITING READ.
3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 3, 2011
It is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.. and I about bet you won't be able to set this book down until youre done reading it.
1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 1, 2011
Omg! Excellent read, keeps you in suspense wondering what is next ! I have this in hard copy and may buy it again so that I canhave it on my nook .
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 22, 2011
VELOCITY was a very engaging story. The main character Billy Wiles just can't seem to make the right decision given the choices he is given. Killing, mayhem, entrapment, and love. It's all in there. I highly recommend VELOCITY. The novel is good to it's name.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 5, 2011
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Posted February 1, 2013
I wanted to know what happened to Barbara. I think with the entire novel and events that has plagued Billy, he deserves Barbara to wake up. Sadly tht brings my rating down, but kudos Koontz. Still my favorite author.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 24, 2012
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Posted January 7, 2012
I enjoyed this book but was not as blown away by it as I was some if his other work.The first half of the story kept me more on edge than the last half. It was still a good read but I didn't have any problem putting it down.I was a little put off by the name "Freak". And the suspense was gone closer to the ending than I expected. I did enjoy it enough to finish it rather quickly and I believe most people will too.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
when i first tried to read this i got through one cpt. and i wasnt intrested normally koontz gets me from go but when i picked it up to give it a second try by about the third cpt. is when i was really hooked it is a great book just didnt start off as fast for me as usual..Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.