Picks and Pans Review: Odd Thomas

updated 01/19/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/19/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

THRILLER

by Dean Koontz

CRITIC'S CHOICE

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"I see dead people. But then, by God, I do something about it." So says Odd Thomas, short-order cook, aspiring tire salesman and the narrator of Koontz's quirky thriller. He can indeed see the dead—usually murder victims looking for help solving the crime—and when he's not spending his leisure time driving around town with Elvis Presley's ghost, Odd joins the local chief of police to battle various supernatural forces along with a coven of devil worshippers. Their main goal is to thwart Bob Robertson, a.k.a. fungus man, a potential mass murderer and an all-around Koontz crazy who is joined by ghostly beings called bodachs.

As usual, Koontz merrily takes bizarre situations and makes them completely believable. For a chiller, the book is also surprisingly warm, set among the charming eccentrics of a small town called Pico Mundo. Odd Thomas describes himself as merely a fry cook who leads an unusual life; Koontz is a kind of hash slinger too, and he serves this one up tasty and hot.

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