What the Night Knows
  • What the Night Knows
  • What the Night Knows

What the Night Knows

3.7 1419
by Dean Koontz
     
 

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In the late summer of a long ago year, a killer arrived in a small city. His name was Alton Turner Blackwood, and in the space of a few months he brutally murdered four families. His savage spree ended only when he himself was killed by the last survivor of the last family, a fourteen-year-old boy.

Half a continent away and two decades later, someone is murdering

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Overview

In the late summer of a long ago year, a killer arrived in a small city. His name was Alton Turner Blackwood, and in the space of a few months he brutally murdered four families. His savage spree ended only when he himself was killed by the last survivor of the last family, a fourteen-year-old boy.

Half a continent away and two decades later, someone is murdering families again, recreating in detail Blackwood’s crimes. Homicide detective John Calvino is certain that his own family—his wife and three children—will be targets in the fourth crime, just as his parents and sisters were victims on that distant night when he was fourteen and killed their slayer.

As a detective, John is a man of reason who deals in cold facts. But an extraordinary experience convinces him that sometimes death is not a one-way journey, that sometimes the dead return.

Here is ghost story like no other you have read. In the Calvinos, Dean Koontz brings to life a family that might be your own, in a war for their survival against an adversary more malevolent than any he has yet created, with their own home the battleground. Of all his acclaimed novels, none exceeds What the Night Knows in power, in chilling suspense, and in sheer mesmerizing storytelling.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this less than suspenseful supernatural thriller from Koontz (Breathless), 14-year-old Billy Lucas's inexplicable slaughter of his entire family awakens the fears of homicide detective John Calvino, who as a child was the sole survivor of a similar family massacre. Though Calvino slayed the fiend who did the deed, he has always worried that the killings were demonic in nature and that the evil spirit responsible would return and harm his wife and three children. Sure enough, after Calvino visits the psychiatric ward where Lucas is held, something starts to haunt every member of his close-knit clan, though improbably and conveniently they all fail to share this disturbing development with each other. The detective believes he has a deadline to thwart the force bent on repeating the earlier murders. The terror level never reaches that of similarly themed works such as the movie Fallen. Clunky prose (e.g., Andy Tane, a cop, "is figuratively and literally a horse") doesn't help. (Jan.)
Library Journal
The author's first book, Star Quest, an sf paperback, was published in 1969. Since then, Koontz has written scores of titles in a wide range of genres from children's books to graphic novels. Yet, from his always-popular body of work there sometimes emerges one of particular merit, one likely to add even more readers to his fan base. This spooky ghost story is such a book. It succeeds as an outstanding work of horror because of several elements: the appeal of the main character, homicide detective John Calvino, whose family was murdered by a serial killer when he was 14; the unstoppable evil of the killer, Alton Turner Blackwood, whose spirit returns from death to embody others so that he can force them to do his bidding; and Koontz's adherence (as outlined in his 1972 Writing Popular Fiction) to his own creed for writing suspense in which The Chase, The Race Against Time, and The Anticipation of a Violent Event are of equal importance. VERDICT Essential for Koontz's myriad fans as well as followers of horror in general. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 8/10.]—Nancy McNicol, Hamden P.L., CT
Kirkus Reviews

In his latest, Koontz (Breathless, 2009, etc.)makes the case that the only thing worse than a serial killer might be his ghost.

In his lifetime, Alton Turner Blackwood was no niggling serial killer. He was family size. In fact, slaughtering families was his stock in trade, and 20 years before the novel's opening, Blackwood's efforts had culminated in the decimation of the family Calvino: mother, father and two preteen daughters, one of whom he raped prior to strangling. Jack, a young son, escaped only because he was away during the carnage. He did, however, arrive home in time to find a gun and put an end to Blackwood's bloody career. Or so it was universally assumed. Flash forward to the present. John has managed to surmount, or at least sublimate, the horror of his personal tragedy and is now a very effective, much respected homicide detective. He heads his own family—Nicky, the lovely woman he adores and their three smart, likable, if occasionally over-precocious, children. He's content, his house in order. And then suddenly there's the advent of Billy Lucas to unnerve him. Billy, currently an inmate in the state hospital, is a 14-year-old confessed mass murderer. A killer that young is of course always unsettling, but Billy turns out to present special problems to John Calvino in that it's his family he's done away with, all of them, including two prepubescent sisters, one of whom he first raped. Moreover, he seems to know things about John he couldn't possibly. Unless...unless what? Unless Blackwood has somehow...but that would be unthinkable.

A good ghost story is all about the suspension of disbelief, which is hampered here by haphazard plotting. Still, Koontz has a pile of unswervingly loyal fans for whom the screw may turn no matter.

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly Audio
It is a good thing that narrator Steven Weber is capable of such enthralling performance—it's this audiobook's only saving grace. A young teenage boy savagely murders his family in a manner identical to the way the family of Det. John Calvino was murdered 20 years earlier. Though John, then a boy, had killed that perpetrator himself, he knows the spirit of that evil lunatic is now possessing people, good and bad, and is out to destroy John's own wife and children. The story becomes an exercise in frustration: spooky things occur to the Calvino family, and they each stubbornly refuse to share their experiences, either in a mistaken effort to protect each other, or to protect themselves from ridicule. Weber's seasoned efforts to bring emotion and drama to this book are valiant and rewarding. His voice is rich and comfortable in the narration and can keep pace as the story becomes intense. A Bantam hardcover. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
“Compelling, terrifying and fresh . . . one of the best horror novels in years.”—The Associated Press

“[Koontz] seems to know us, our deepest foibles and fears.”—USA Today
 
“Dean Koontz is not just a master of our darkest dreams, but also a literary juggler.”—The Times (London)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780553807721
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/28/2010
Pages:
442
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

1

What year these events transpired is of no consequence. Where they occurred is not important. The time is always, and the place is everywhere.

Suddenly at noon, six days after the murders, birds flew to trees and sheltered roosts. As if their wings had lanced the sky, the rain fell close behind their flight. The long afternoon was as dim and drowned as twilight in Atlantis.

The state hospital stood on a hill, silhouetted against a gray and sodden sky. The September light appeared to strop a razor’s edge along each skein of rain.

A procession of eighty-foot purple beeches separated the inbound and the outbound lanes of the approach road. Their limbs overhung the car and collected the rain to redistribute it in thick drizzles that rapped against the windshield.

The thump of the wipers matched the slow, heavy rhythm of John Calvino’s heart. He did not play the radio. The only sounds were the engine, the windshield wipers, the rain, the swish of tires turning on wet pavement, and a memory of the screams of dying women.

Near the main entrance, he parked illegally under the portico. He propped the police placard on the dashboard.

John was a homicide detective, but this car belonged to him, not to the department. The use of the placard while off duty might be a minor violation of the rules. But his conscience was encrusted with worse transgressions than the abuse of police prerogatives.

At the reception desk in the lobby sat a lean woman with close-cropped black hair. She smelled of the lunchtime cigarettes that had curbed her appetite. Her mouth was as severe as that of an iguana.

After glancing at John’s police ID and listening to his request, she used the intercom to call an escort for him. Pen pinched in her thin fingers, white knuckles as sharp as chiseled marble, she printed his name and badge number in the visitors’ register.

Hoping for gossip, she wanted to talk about Billy Lucas.

Instead, John went to the nearest window. He stared at the rain without seeing it.

A few minutes later, a massive orderly named Coleman Hanes escorted him to the third—top—floor. Hanes so filled the elevator that he seemed like a bull in a narrow stall, waiting for the door to the rodeo ring to be opened. His mahogany skin had a faint sheen, and by contrast his white uniform was radiant.

They talked about the unseasonable weather: the rain, the almost wintry cold two weeks before summer officially ended. They discussed neither murder nor insanity.

John did most of the talking. The orderly was self-possessed to the point of being phlegmatic.

The elevator opened to a vestibule. A pink-faced guard sat at a desk, reading a magazine.

“Are you armed?” he asked.

“My service pistol.”

“You’ll have to give it to me.”

John removed the weapon from his shoulder rig, surrendered it.

On the desk stood a Crestron touch-screen panel. When the guard pressed an icon, the electronic lock released the door to his left.

Coleman Hanes led the way into what appeared to be an ordinary hospital corridor: gray-vinyl tile underfoot, pale-blue walls, white ceiling with fluorescent panels.

“Will he eventually be moved to an open floor or will he be kept under this security permanently?” John asked.

“I’d keep him here forever. But it’s up to the doctors.”

Hanes wore a utility belt in the pouches of which were a small can of Mace, a Taser, plastic-strap handcuffs, and a walkie-talkie.

All the doors were closed. Each featured a lock-release keypad and a porthole.

Seeing John’s interest, Hanes said, “Double-paned. The inner pane is shatterproof. The outer is a two-way mirror. But you’ll be seeing Billy in the consultation room.”

This proved to be a twenty-foot-square chamber divided by a two-foot-high partition. From the top of this low wall to the ceiling were panels of thick armored glass in steel frames.

In each panel, near the sill and just above head height, two rectangular steel grilles allowed sound to pass clearly from one side of the glass to the other.

The nearer portion of the room was the smaller: twenty feet long, perhaps eight feet wide. Two armchairs were angled toward the glass, a small table between them.

The farther portion of the room contained one armchair and a long couch, allowing the patient either to sit or to lie down.

On this side of the glass, the chairs had wooden legs. The back and seat cushions were button-tufted.

Beyond the glass, the furniture featured padded, upholstered legs. The cushions were smooth-sewn, without buttons or upholstery tacks.

Ceiling-mounted cameras on the visitor’s side covered the entire room. From the guard’s station, Coleman Hanes could watch but not listen.

Before leaving, the orderly indicated an intercom panel in the wall beside the door. “Call me when you’re finished.”

Alone, John stood beside an armchair, waiting.

The glass must have had a nonreflective coating. He could see only the faintest ghost of himself haunting that polished surface.

In the far wall, on the patient’s side of the room, two barred windows provided a view of slashing rain and dark clouds curdled like malignant flesh.

On the left, a door opened, and Billy Lucas entered the patient’s side of the room. He wore slippers, gray cotton pants with an elastic waistband, and a long-sleeved gray T-shirt.

His face, as smooth as cream in a saucer, seemed to be as open and guileless as it was handsome. With pale skin and thick black hair, dressed all in gray, he resembled an Edward Steichen glamour portrait from the 1920s or ’30s.

The only color he offered, the only color on his side of the glass, was the brilliant, limpid, burning blue of his eyes.

Neither agitated nor lethargic from drugs, Billy crossed the room unhurriedly, with straight-shouldered confidence and an almost eerie grace. He looked at John, only at John, from the moment he entered the room until he stood before him, on the farther side of the glass partition.

“You’re not a psychiatrist,” Billy said. His voice was clear, measured, and mellifluous. He had sung in his church choir. “You’re a detective, aren’t you?”

“Calvino. Homicide.”

“I confessed days ago.”

“Yes, I know.”

“The evidence proves I did it.”

“Yes, it does.”

“Then what do you want?”

“To understand.”

Less than a full smile, a suggestion of amusement shaped the boy’s expression. He was fourteen, the unrepentant murderer of his family, capable of unspeakable cruelty, yet the half-smile made him look neither smug nor evil, but instead wistful and appealing, as though he were recalling a trip to an amusement park or a fine day at the shore.

“Understand?” Billy said. “You mean—what was my motive?”

“You haven’t said why.”

“The why is easy.”

“Then why?”

The boy said, “Ruin.”

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