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What the Night Knows

What the Night Knows

3.8 1432
by Dean Koontz, Steven Weber (Read by)

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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


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, re-creating 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 a 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.

“Dean Koontz...has the power to scare the daylights out of us.” —People

“Koontz seems to know us, our deepest foibles and fears.” —USA Today

“Koontz writes first-rate suspense, scary and stylish.” —Los Angeles Times

“A master at spinning dark tales...Koontz knows how to dial up the terror.” —Associated Press

Editorial Reviews

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.)
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.)
From the Publisher
“Compelling, terrifying and fresh . . . true terror in print.”—Associated Press
“Deliberate, highly supernatural . . . one of Koontz's weightiest performances.”—Booklist (starred review)
“You’ll find yourself genuinely unnerved. . . . On a dark winter’s night, what more do you need?”—Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Satisfyingly spooky and unrelentingly foreboding.”—USA Today
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.

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Brilliance Audio
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5.00(w) x 5.60(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt


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.”

Meet the Author

The books of Dean Koontz are published in 38 languages, and worldwide sales top 400 million copies. Eleven of his novels have risen to number one on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list, and several have been adapted into feature films and TV miniseries. Dean and Gerda Koontz live in southern California with their golden retriever, Anna, grand-niece of the famous and beloved 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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What the Night Knows 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1431 reviews.
Lee_Bloom More than 1 year ago
The thing I like about Dean Koontz is that he refuses to be pigeon-holed into one type of storytelling. Only a handful of his books (at least in the past couple of decades) have been supernatural in nature, the others have dealt with good and evil from the hands of man. (ie. a mad scientist creating mad creatures). But he also writes some damn fine fiction that simply deals with human nature, like any "normal" writer would. The first book I read by Mr. Koontz was Phantoms back in 1993, I remember reading that on a graveyard shift at work, inside this big building with just one other person on staff. I was thoroughly scared to the point of having to stop reading it, take a break, relax and come back to it. And now it seems things have come full circle. "What The Night Knows" has returned to Koontz's supernatural, pure evil subject matter and has once again scared the hell out of me. It's the kind of Koontz book people expect of the author, even though he doesn't want to be known primarily as a horror writer. But it also has the trademark Koontz relationships (whether family or lovers), inner turmoil, human nature, insights on society and of course the author's way of describing everything in minute detail. I've read most of Dean Koontz books (all of his books from the last 20 years) and I've never read one that prompted me to ask for a refund. Some better than others, but this one probably belongs in the top 10. It's leave-your-nightlight-on, look-over-your-shoulder, jump-at-the-slightest-noise scary!!!!
bearmarket More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I have been an avid Koontz reader for years because he always seems ot capture the mystery and the characters in a way that is unique for most mysteries. Lately I was disappointed that perhaps he was becoming predictable, but this novel had a beauty to it. Loved It!!
Country_Boy9 More than 1 year ago
I've read everything, honestly, that Dean Koontz has written since '77. I've been crazy for his books since first reading "Lightning" when I was 12 years old. This book felt more like one of his older books from the 80's or 90's. That's a good thing, for me. This was layers of suspense on layers of suspense, without some of the "preachiness" that some people have accused him of the last handful of years and books. One of the great things about all of his books is that he hasn't been limited to one theme or style. He's always explored multiple themes in his books. With this one though he didn't get "sidetracked" with those themes. I felt like on this one he let the story take care of itself. And this story was more than capable of keeping my attention from the first page to the last. This was one of the strongest villains he has ever written about and one of his most sympathetic heroes. This book was good versus evil from start to finish. I won't give any specifics about the story away. All I can say is that if you've enjoyed his books then you should enjoy this one also. If you've felt that he's gotten away from some of his more solid writing then maybe this book will help bring you back around a little bit. It was just that much fun for me to get through. I completely forgot the time while I was reading this one.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Providing no explanation afterward as to why he committed the atrocity, fourteen year old Billy Lucas simply butchered his family. Homicide detective John Calvino knows Billy's case hits too close to home. Two decades ago serial killer Alton Turner Blackwood slaughtered John's family and three other families; only John survived by shooting the maniac who was in the midst of a deranged ritual. John has always feared that Blackwood was possessed by a malevolent spirit who the cop believes has not finished the job. His fear is not so much for himself, but for his wife and their three children. John visits the teen at a psychiatric ward, but as soon as he leaves his family members especially his preadolescent kids begin to feel haunted. John knows time is running out for him to prevent history from repeating itself; perhaps his only reliable ally though he has doubts of the existence and the loyalty is Willard; his family's deceased dog. This is an exciting horror thriller that grips the reader with the same high level of suspense that Dean Koontz always achieves. The behavior of the four Calvino family members in some ways reflect the inane behavior of a teen-slasher movie, as each conceals what is happening to them from each other. With a nod to the OK Corral, fans will enjoy the supernatural battle between Calvino and the evil essences from beyond even as Mr. Koontz sets up a potential sequel. Harriet Klausner
BLUEEYEBE More than 1 year ago
WHAT THE NIGHT KNOWS is a graphic nail-biter that won't let you put it down. John Calvino is a police detective with a secret. Twenty years before, a seriously deranged serial killer, Alton Turner Blackwood, murdered John's family as well as three other families in town, and used their corpses in a gruesome ritual. John was a 14-year old boy at the time, the lone survivor of the fourth family, and managed to kill Blackwood. Now a husband and father of three children, he has reason to believe the man he killed twenty years ago has returned from the dead to fulfill a promise of rape and murder. The answer to why this is happening is the answer to how to stop it and the whole hair-raising story is finding this answer. If you love a good ghost story, you can't go wrong with this one!
SouthernPsych More than 1 year ago
This book alternates from tedious prose to disturbing and graphic violence. Also, the author’s blatant proselytization of his ideological and religious beliefs became tiring very quickly. No more Dean Koontz for me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read many novels by Dean Koontz and think his best work was in his early years. I loved the ODD THOMAS books but after the fourth or fifth one they became stale and predictable to me. I quit Koontz for five years or so and decided to give WHAT THE NIGHT KNOWS a shot several days ago. The character development was good. The story creepy enough. The problem with this novel was the WORDINESS throughout. There is so much extra description of everything, one would think Koontz is just trying to fill up space. There were entire pages I would read, reread, read again, and still not be able to make sense of what was written. It was like, WHAT THE HECK? This story had good potential but was ruined by nonsense. There's better authors to spend your money on. ~ DO ~
Mike Murphy More than 1 year ago
Started good 3/4 of the way through it just got dumb and hard to read u all ready new the ending dont waste your time with this one unless u cant sleep becuese it will pput u their
S-a-r-a More than 1 year ago
First, the positives: it had all the makings of a suspenseful crime novel with supernatural elements. The plot was really engaging in parts, and I appreciated the originality of the story and its overall effect. The negatives: some of the characters were very manufactured. I didn't buy them at all as a "real" family, and their quippy dialogue and stereotypical roles (especially the kids) came across to me as really artificial and it got sort of annoying. The most critical characters were better developed, though, so it wasn't a total wash on that front. Also, I thought the ending of this book could have been better and I was a little disappointed with it. With that said, I'd say the good of this book outshines the bad, and it's worth a read!
Bertapc More than 1 year ago
This reminds me of some of his older books like Intensity. This was a heart pounding thrill ride. A cross between the TV shows Fringe and Criminal Minds.
CK84 More than 1 year ago
I have to admit my faith in one of my favorite authors has been shaken of late. I was disappointed in Lost Souls and his most recent work has been less then great. However in What the Knight Knows Koontz has made me a believer again with an original story, a villain you love to hate, and whose protagonist characters have depth and are incredibly refreshing. You find yourselves fearful for the characters and highly invested. It is a can't put it down read. Sit back and enjoy!
matildanook More than 1 year ago
Like others, I pre-ordered this book for $16 in November thinking if I pre-ordered, i was getting a better deal than waiting for the release...the day after the release, Barnes and Noble decides to sell it for $9.99...is that fair? I don't think so....the book is all hype. I have to admit, I loved the novella, the short, but entertaining prequel to this book...but, the this book is so full of description and no substance. I would rather move on to see what is going to happen next rather than know what kind of material the couches in the mental institution are made out of....VERY WORDY. good story, but so wordy...it could have been half the size of the book, half the price, and AS entertaining....I typically love Koontz, this was a disappointment!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story had a great plot and I loved the characters. The action started happening right away. Definitley got me creeped out by ghosts. I would recommend this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved What The Night Knows. The thrill of this novel is that Koontz both 1) gives you contradicting characters' perspectives (requiring you th reader to discern what is truely happening), and 2) invites you to imagine yourself standing with the characters as the action is going on. Masterfully writtrn thrilling story. Highly recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book.. it was freaky scary.... i reccomend this book to ppl who love horror stories and who love getting gosebumps from reading them... X- D
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If your into horror stories! Read this novel! It's the best thriller book I've ever read! His writting is a page turner, and the book gets you hooked! The chapters are a little long, but the story from a detectives perspective is fasinating! I told all my friends and family of this author, I adore his novels! If your a new reader to this author, I recommend this novel for a first read! Great cover art, and a great read!
Attymoot More than 1 year ago
Good book, fun and scary, but he lost the handle at the finish line.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found that I was reading this book just to get through it. The story begins very slowly, embroiled with just too much introspection within a large number of characters. At one point, almost as an afterthought, the reader is astounded to find that one of the young girls is a "ghost-whisperer" - seems to be a pretty important, but grossly unexplored character trait. Odd! The story-line could have been a winner. Eventually, the book does pick up and becomes somewhat engaging, but I was relieved to see it end and more than ready to move on.
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PainFrame More than 1 year ago
Go see what I’ve done, it’s a beautiful thing. I know Dean Koontz is a prolific writer but I had always avoided, or at least not sought out his work, until a co-worker handed me this book to read. I didn’t think I would be able to care about it and did not enjoy the prospect of slogging through 624 pages of an uninspired ghost story. Sometimes it’s great to be wrong! I absolutely loved this book. It’s captivating as all get out, I think I devoured the whole thing in less than a week. Koontz is very good (or super evil?) at ending each chapter with some kind of hook or reveal which makes me unable to stop reading, a quality which I both love and hate about my favorite novels. I’m also a sucker for a good procedural, and this investigation is far reaching and interesting; and while I consider myself something of a skeptic in the supernatural department, this book is still quite scary. I don’t think I could have been more impressed by Dean Koontz, I will definitely keep my ear to the ground for more work from this excellent writer.
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