The Forbidden Door by Dean Koontz
This is book 4 in the Jane Hawk series. Jane Hawk is a rogue FBI agent under serious pressure. Her husband was killed by a shadow government and the death made to look like suicide. Jane was threatened with the death of her only child, 5-year-old Travis, if she went public with her suspicions and so decided that her only option was to take her son and run.
But Jane is not one to give up, especially when her husband has been murdered and her child threatened in the vilest way. Fortunately, she has accumulated many contacts in the US underground over her career. This criminal smorgasbord comes in handy when attempting to evade her pursuers.
As to those chasing her? They are a cabal hell-bent upon global domination, kinda like SPECTRE only without the fluffy white cat. To achieve their aims they have developed nano-implants which, when injected into the bloodstream, attack and take over the brain. The victims are then puppets of the cabal, activated by the use of code phrases. Jane’s husband was one such target. Such is the level of control, that those infected (there is no known cure) can be ordered to kill themselves or others and they will gladly comply.
The leaders of this group, who call themselves Arcadians, are not all known to Jane, although she has met and killed the scientist who developed the technology. See the review for The Whispering Room, here:
But our favourite rogue FBI agent, who is drop-dead gorgeous, is not satisfied with just this sizable victory. She is determined to see an end to the entire Arcadian movement. That’s not such an easy thing to do considering that the group are extremely powerful, well-resourced and sociopathic. Many influential members of the government, judiciary and wider society are members of the cabal. This includes Homeland Security operatives, FBI members, judges and officials within the State Department. Jane is really screwed. Or is she? It would be a poor book if she wasn’t able to take on these bad guys and win. Probably about two chapters long, but likely more true to life.
In The Forbidden Door, Jane has been forced to rescue Travis from the imminent clutches of the Arcadians who have killed his guardians in book 3. The review for this episode, The Crooked Staircase, can be found here:
Travis has since taken shelter with Cornell, a reclusive giant millionaire with serious OCD. Cornell has a secret bunker prepared for the end-of-days and Travis fits nicely into it, even if he can’t leave his toothbrush sitting around. But the Arcadians know the region where Travis is hiding, if not the exact location. They have put a ring of steel around the Borrego Valley and are slowly moving in. Jane is becoming desperate to find a way to get in, and out again with Travis, without the Arcadians finding her. Sounds impossible, right? Well you clearly don’t know our Jane.
As the delectable Mrs Hawk moves carefully towards Travis and the obvious trap waiting for her, she is being tailed by an overly ambitious Arcadian assassin. Ivan Petro has spotted Jane but, instead of calling it in and more surely catching the elusive mother, he has decided to capture her himself in an attempt to boost his standing within the Arcadians. But has he bitten off more than he can chew? Bad-guy assassins in fiction usually do.
There is a second thread to this tale. Jane’s in-laws, Ancel and Clare Hawk, are standing solidly behind Jane and are aware of the truth of what happened to their son, Nick. As the Arcadians become frustrated with their ongoing failures to capture or kill Jane, they turn to her in-laws in an attempt to put further pressure on her and perhaps acquire info that may help them in their vicious hunt. But the Arcadians have again underestimated their prey and find that the Hawks have gone on the hoof, whereabouts unknown. At least so far.
Into the picture steps Egon Gottfrey, a Fed with a nihilistic approach to life. Egon believes in Cognito, ergo sum. Life is an illusion for him yet he perseveres in his scripted pursuit of the Hawk elders. He’s a brutal man who has little time for those who stand in his way, either ‘friend’ or foe. The hunt for Clare and Ancel moves across the states as the targets move fast leaving little behind. But Egon is a very clever man and becomes increasingly confident that he has the measure of the harried couple. Of course, he has all the resources of the US Federal authorities at his disposal so why wouldn’t he be?
We also meet a third group of Arcadians in this wide-ranging story. Carter Jergen and Radley Dubose are an unlikely pair. Both are Federal agents in a number of agencies, as they see fit. They’re both sociopathic and ambitious. But Dubose is a fanatical Arcadian idealist, whereas Jergen is merely there because he dreams of untold power and fortune. This difference in purpose becomes a sore point between both men as they try to locate Travis Hawk in the Borrego Valley. Dubose is a backwoods blue collar man who managed to make it to an Ivy League college. Jergen is born of the US aristocracy. Both will not hesitate to kill a 5-year-old child if need be. Jane needs to hurry as the pair are making steady progress in whittling down all potential hiding places for the child.
As the tension mounts and Jane looks for ways in, she turns to two characters from previous episodes. Luther Tillman is a former sheriff who helped Jane in the liberating of children destined for programming with nano-bots. Tillman’s wife and daughter were injected and therefore lost to him, but he escaped with his remaining teenage daughter into hiding. When Jane calls Luther and asks for his assistance in rescuing Travis, the amicable black law officer doesn’t hesitate to tell her to piss off and stop making his life miserable. Wait, no, that didn’t happen. Perhaps it should have but it didn’t. Luther would never do that. He readily agreed to help Jane and off he went to their Council of War.
Next up is Bernie Riggowitz, a Jewish gentleman of 81 fun-filled years who was gently abducted by Jane in a previous instalment. Bernie is a widower with no fear of death. He has taken a shine to Jane and hopes for sex at some point but fears Jane may be leading him on. Jane is undecided and ponders rampant sex with such an experienced lover. She is especially interested in getting Bernie in a gimp mask and latex suit and then whipping the ass off him. Wait, no, that didn’t happen either. Not sure what’s going on today. Must be bored. Bernie is really nice and offers any help Jane needs to save her son (sex with her is never mentioned). This is Jane’s dream team that will take on the cream of the Federal authorities of the USA. Hmmph…
In order to facilitate their passage beyond the Federal ring of steel, Jane calls upon her criminal contacts in creating IDs, providing weapons and a suitable vehicle for entry into the Borrego Valley. Luckily, Jane took money from one of her Arcadian victims (if they can ever be called victims). This was one of Jane’s brighter moves and runs contrary to much of the moralistic bullshit often found in books of fiction. If the money’s there, and you’re going on the run, then take the goddamn cash and be grateful. So, appropriately attired and with proper wheels, the three musketeers set out on their mission to save a boy.
Meanwhile, not back at the ranch but in the Borrego Valley, the Arcadian foot soldiers are injecting certain residents so that they can help in the search for Travis. The problem is, a certain proportion of all those injected will have a very negative reaction to the process. As if having a network of nano-bots spread across your brain isn’t bad enough, some victims suffer an allergic reaction to the technology. To use the IT terminology, they go ape-shit. Whilst this wouldn’t be so bad, new modifications in the nano-bots have created a hive mind that allows all those injected to communicate remotely using microwaves. Rebel Voice supposes that their brains must eventually be edible. This communal faculty is known as The Whispering Room (see previous review linked above). Unfortunately, anyone who goes bananas transfers their crazy into the hive mind which is not a good thing, let us tell you that. Carter Jergen and Radley Dubose, and their Arcadians colleagues can testify to that.
This story is pretty good considering the wacky premise. Rebel Voice is not suggesting that Federal attempts to brainwash the people of the USA is ridiculous. After all, that’s exactly what the MSM and advertising industry do already. No, we are suggesting that a secret society using nano-bots to control people whilst no one else knows is a tad stretched. Having said that, once you accept that it’s plausible in the context of the story, then The Forbidden Door is a good read, if weak in places.
Jane Hawk has documentary evidence of what is going on but feels that she can’t trust anyone to reveal it. She understandably mistrusts the MSM, but apparently hasn’t considered foreign media outlets. She could send her proof to Telesur, or Russia Today, or Al Jazeera or perhaps even the BBC, although the Beeb is usually onside with whatever the US MSM want. Still, there is Antimedia, Mint Press and even Joe Rogan. Hell, if she wanted, she could post it to Rebel Voice and we would go public with it. But no, the world ends for Jane at the borders of the USA. Weak plot point Koontzy baby.
Setting aside such irritations, the writing in this is strong. The character list is extended and perhaps slightly too large, but the personalities are full and engaging. The settings are glorious and Koontz has always had a skill in depicting both countryside and urban areas. The pace of the tale is good although there are so many threads being woven that one may not be seen for a time. The story-line, therefore, becomes slightly jerky. Yet, all-in-all, it’s a good read and better than the last episode.
The next edition in this series is titled The Night Window. The house upon which these titles are based must be a strange place; a Silent Corner, a Crooked Staircase, a Whispering Room, a Forbidden Door and now a Night Window, whatever that is. Would you want to live there?
One point needs to be made about the end of this book. After the conclusion of The Forbidden Door, there are a few teaser chapters for The Night Window. Rebel Voice did not read them. After having finished The Crooked Staircase, there were also a number of teaser chapters that Rebel Voice did read. Unfortunately, when then beginning The Forbidden Door, the introductory chapters previously read had little correspondence with those in the full book. This was very confusing as early plot points between the two offerings contradicted one other. Perhaps teaser chapters are only a good idea if they are true to what will eventually be published in the book?
Sult scale rating: 7 out of 10. This is a fairly decent and intriguing read. It’s a tad formulaic but the story is strong and runs well. The characters are well represented and the tension builds nicely. It also has one of the best plot mechanisms that this reviewer has seen in quite a while. It involves a disgruntled old lady and her dog and was well received in these quarters.
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