This is the third Odd Thomas novel. Odd Thomas sees the lingering spirits of the dead and occasionally helps them resolve the issues that hold them back, those that do not want to move on anyway. Unable to continue his life as a fry cook in the Mohave desert town of Pico Mundo after losing his beloved Stormy, he relocates to St Bartholomew’s high in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The monastery is relatively new: the only unqueit spirit Odd meets is unfortunate Brother Constantine who rings the bells when upset. The monastery has sections for monks and nuns, the former holding the laboratory of brilliant, wealthy and mysterious sub-atomic particle physicist, Brother John, who donated his vast fortune to the order , joined it and lives in seclusion, and the latter, in the older part of the complex, holding a school for disabled children.
The story begins with the disappearance of Brother Timothy, the monastery’s caretaker. Odd, likeable character that he is, has free run of the monastery and a master key, and begins to search for Brother Timothy, but instead finds a terrible apparition assembled of minute bones in a Sierra Nevada blizzard. Odd flees to the nunnery and finds numerous Bodachs assembling – spiritual vampires most people cannot see that assemble anyplace something terrible is going to happen. Convinced something very bad is indeed going to happen, Odd organizes the brothers and sisters (the top people know of his unusual talents) to protect the children and intensifies his search for the cause of the coming disaster. With some help, apparently, from Stormy reaching back across the veil to warn him, he is led to Jacob, a child who suffers from Down’s syndrome but is a fantastically talented artist who talks of the mysterious “Neverwas” and the impending evil it means to do. Odd cannot quite put it all together, but with the help of Rhodion Romanovich, a taciturn Russian Odd suspects of being a spy – it turns out he defected and is in the NSA- he discovers that the source of the impending destruction is Brother John – Brother John had developed a device that allowed him to think things into and out of existence by manipulating the principles of quantum physics. Rhodion and Odd confront Brother John who is at first aghast and contrite that his experiment went so wrong, but then falls under the spell of his own demented, perfectionist subconscious personality – Jacob’s “Neverwas”. Brother John is killed in the ensuing fight, Brother Constantine’s spirit at last can move on (He knew all along what was going on –one of Brother John’s apparitions had killed him- and he could not leave his brothers in peril).
Odd decides to return to Pico Mundo and calls 400 pound novelist Ozzie Boone to pick him up. Before leaving, he convinces the spirit of Elvis Presley, a constant companion so far, to move on to his reward. As Ozzie and Odd drive down the road, Odd is compelled by a call from beyond to get out of the car and strike out on his own. Ozzie sadly accepts Odd’s decision and lets him go. As Odd walks down the road with his ghost dog Boo (it probably belonged to Lobo when it was alive) he is joined by the ghost of Frank Sinatra, rather dourer than Elvis.
Koontz is in his usual good form in describing the eerie environments his characters inhabit. Pico Mundo was a little more atmospheric than the monastery. Odd belonged there as did his friends and nemeses. Though a monastery in the Sierras is by no means improbable, our inclinations in mystery and occult fiction tend more to a monastery in the Apennines or at least in the Pennines. We see from this book that Koontz intends to carry the series on for a while. It is fast becoming his best liked series. And Stormy is going to come back into Odd’s life in some form or other. Stormy was one of Koontz best characters (I would argue that Odd is his best character, at least his best non-villain). Stormy reminds me very much of the heroine of Strange Highways (and that for me is the best single thing Koontz has ever written – “simple number of the beast” yarn though it is. The abandoned Coal Mining Town and the chronological paradox is Koontz at his eerie best). Frankly Odd Thomas is a close number two (Though it runs neck and neck with The Key To Midnight.) Stephen King recently opined the compliment that Koontz could “write like hell” though he had is awful spots (When he was good he was very, very good, but when he was bad he was ‘orrid). I concur. Anything with Odd Thomas in it is clearly in the better half of what Koontz writes. Odd is altogether right minded and good without becoming saccharine. Koontz puts a little more of the “childhood was horrible and some parents are such insensitive and cruel beasts” (though so sadly often true) into the story than I think is normally effective, but it is his “number one best-selling author” broken record and soapbox of choice, and, interestingly, in the Odd Thomas series it doesn’t harm the story line. Odd Thomas is the best in the series but Brother Odd is also enjoyable and there are apparently more installments waiting in the wings.