Picks and Pans Review: Lightning

updated 05/30/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/30/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Dean R. Koontz

"A storm struck on the night Laura Shane was born, and there was a strangeness about the weather that people would remember for years." It is with that straightforward, shameless variation on "It was a dark and stormy night..." that Koontz begins this gripping novel, his 52nd (19 of them were written under pseudonyms). Koontz's writing is hard to categorize. In bookstores his work can be found among the horror fiction; he is billed as "a grand master of menace," and the covers of his books are often adorned with lurid, macabre drawings that seem to promise shuddersome shlockiness within. Koontz's publishers are doing him a disservice. It's fairer to describe him as an author of suspense with supernatural shadings. Lightning is about Laura Shane, a beautiful writer who finds she is under the protection of a mysterious stranger, a fairy godfather who magically appears when Laura's life is in danger. Her guardian angel first intercedes on the night she is born, seeing to it that she is not delivered by a drunken doctor. Eight years later he shoots an armed robber before the crook can harm Laura, and it turns out she has a lifetime protector. Koontz's prose is clear and clean, if a tad pedestrian. As always, however, good and evil are clearly delineated, and the reader is too busy rooting for Koontz's sympathetically drawn characters to cry out for glitzy adjectives. The tale is gradually revealed to be a clever retooling of the old-time travel wheeze; the denouement is fast-paced and satisfying. Mainstream readers should ignore Lightning's dust jacket and become acquainted with the work of the man who is possibly America's most obscure best-selling author. (Putnam's, $18.95)

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