Picks and Pans Review: The Bad Place
Ah, that's better. After last year's disappointing Midnight, which ironically became Koontz's first book to reach No. 1 on the best-seller list, the (previously) unsung hero of the horror genre has bounced back with this suspenseful saga. The Bad Place sets off at an in-your-face, breakneck pace that never flags.
Koontz takes a shopworn premise—an amnesiac, fearing for his life without knowing why, is on the run—and gives it an intriguing twist. It seems that this forgetful fellow is also something of a nocturnal knockabout: He is afraid to sleep because when he wakes he finds his clothes tattered, his hands covered with blood and his pockets lined with priceless gems.
Koontz has peopled The Bad Place with a colorful cast. The amnesiac, Frank Pollard, hires the engaging husband-and-wife detective team of Bobby and Julie Dakota to help him solve the mystery of his identity. The baddest resident of The Bad Place is a man-monster named Candy who possesses many remarkable fetishes and abilities, apparently brought on by a grotesque yet inventive accident of birth.
About halfway through the novel, Koontz resorts to various tricks of the supernatural trade—like telekinesis and teleportation (the ability to simply think oneself from one place to another). Once the mysterious goings-on change from inexplicable to implausible, The Bad Place loses steam. Another problem is Koontz's prose; straightforward and workmanlike at best, it occasionally descends to the downright artless: "Bobby sensed that what he had heard thus far was all just the bread on the horror sandwich; the meat was yet to come."
While it falls short of his best work (Watchers), this is a sandwich that Koontz fans will devour whole. And for newcomers who want to sample Koontz's fare, The Bad Place is not a bad place to start. (Putnam, $19.95)