Dragon Tears by Dean Koontz
In this fast-paced tale we meet Californian police detective, Harry Lyon, and his colleague, the feisty Connie Gullivar. Harry is a tad OCD whereas Connie is not. Yet they seem to complement one another perfectly as they struggle to keep law and order in the city of Irvine.
When both are having a meal in a local diner, they become swept up in a gun battle with a lone psycho armed with a handgun and grenades. There are dead and wounded everywhere before the episode is brought to a close. Harry has to manhandle one gawker from the scene as blood covers the diner floor, a decision he later comes to regret.
Meanwhile, Sammy Shamroe has problems of his own. He was once a successful salesman before he took a hard fall. Now he lives in a box in an alleyway trying to drink himself to death. He also smells bad. When a man-thing appears and tells him that he has only 36 hours to live before it returns to butcher him, and then it turns into a swarm of rats and disappears, Sammy thinks that he has finally lost the plot. However, he resolves to do something positive to stop the entity that he has named Tick Tock.
Janet Marco is on the run. She has her 5-year-old son, Danny, with her. Janet’s ex, Vince, was a violent man who regularly beat her. But it was when he struck Danny that Janet had enough and killed him in his sleep. She dumped his body in the desert and fled, but tries to remain off the radar in case there are cops looking for her.
It’s as she and Danny are collecting redeemable trash that they are approached by something that has assumed the form of a cop. But Janet knows that the being in front of her, making obscene threats, is not normal. When their dog Woofer, a stray adopted by a traumatized Danny, tries to attack the man upsetting his family, time stops. Yes, you read correctly, time stops. The dog freezes in mid-flight as the creature laughs. When time resumes, the thing has gone leaving Janet with the knowledge that it will return to kill them both in a matter of hours. Tick Tock.
But it seems as if Janet, Danny and Sammy are not the only ones to have attracted the attentions of Tick Tock. Harry finds himself on the receiving end. Initially he thinks that he’s going mad. Events are so outlandish that he almost convinces himself that stress has driven him crazy. But when Connie also receives a visit, they are forced to fight to ignore their police training so that they can better understand exactly what it is they’re up against. It’s not natural, they figure out that much pretty quickly. But can you guess who it turns out to be?
As the cops move, step by terrifying step, closer to discovering what, or who, they are up against, Tick Tock continues to play cruel games with them. It seems as if the creature enjoys taunting its victims prior to the kill. The four targets are helpless in face of a being with apparent omnipotence. Lucky for them they have a dog on their side.
Rebel Voice has written previously of Koontz’ fixation with dogs. They feature in many of his novels. In Dragon Tears, it’s a dog that again saves the day. There are entire passages in this that are told from the dog’s point of view, if the dog could speak English and use words like khaki, obvious and humiliated, of course. Apparently this book made number one on the New York Times bestseller list. WTF!
The dog-narrative is ridiculous. Although the plot is fanciful anyway, the parts where we are taken into a dog’s head and thought processes are cringe-worthy. Dragon Tears was first published in 1992. Dean Kontz has not improved upon his penchant for dog worship in that time. Without the dog, there is no story here and, as the dog-parts are silly, the entire book becomes so too.
Rebel Voice won’t go into further detail about the story-line. It’s fairly run-of-the-mill. You could guess how it goes. As with Terry Malloy, this book could have been a contender. Koontz can set the scene and his characters are fairly interesting. However, sometimes he, literally, loses the plot.
Of note in this 2016 edition of the book is the afterword. In it, the author discusses his reasons for writing the book and the process involved. It’s the most engaging part of this entire read. Of note is his revelation that he paid Garth Brooks $5000 for the right to use 8 lines from a song (The River) that Brooks co-wrote with Victoria Shaw. That’s a lot of money for such a small excerpt (202 words), especially as it did little if anything for the book. That’s $24.75 per letter. Nice work if you can get it. Brooks was greedy but Koontz has apparently more money than sense.
Sult scale rating: 5 out of 10. Good writing but poor design and execution of a weak plot. When Koontz gets into dog-worship, it’s best to cock a leg over the book and pee on it.
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