Picks and Pans Review: Fear Nothing

updated 02/02/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/02/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Dean Koontz

Christopher Snow is a creature of the night. Cursed with a hereditary skin disorder called xeroderma pigmentosum, the young California writer risks potentially fatal consequences from even the briefest caress of the sun. However, it quickly becomes clear in terrormeister Dean Koontz's adrenaline-pumping new adventure that if Chris hopes to see 29, he must also shun light of another sort—the kind his curiosity might shine on a community's secrets.

For all its surf-kissed charm, Moonlight Bay does have a darker side, as Chris discovers after overhearing a local undertaker discuss plans to switch the corpse of a murdered drifter with that of Chris's dad. Upset and enraged, Chris (along with his preternaturally astute canine companion, Orson) starts to sniff around—eventually tumbling into a cesspool of conspiracy, corruption and genetic engineering projects gone horrifically awry.

With the cockiness of a man who sells some 17 million books a year, Koontz endows his breakneck chiller with several memorable chases, any of which could serve as a satisfying climax. The pace makes it easier to overlook occasionally florid passages, clichéd characters and an ultimately unconvincing premise. Quibbles aside, however, Fear Nothing demonstrates a master of darkness's continuing power to scare the daylights out of us. (Bantam, $26.95)

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