The Crooked Staircase by Dean Koontz–Conspiracy theorists will be captivated by the concept. Mystery/thriller fans will enjoy the non-stop action and the convoluted plot.
After a hard day at work, Sara Holdsteck drives home through darkness and pouring rain, a .45 caliber pistol by her side. It is obvious she has something to fear. She enters her kitchen and smells fresh coffee. Too late. She is blindsided by a stranger calmly sipping coffee, reading the paper, clutching a pistol enhanced with a long silencer. Not to worry, she’s the good guy. It’s Jane Hawk, rogue FBI agent, recently indicted for espionage, treason, and murder. Hawk is there to press Sara for information on her former husband, the one who deserted her and bled her dry. Sara willingly gives Jane the information she needs to make a move on the abusive husband, Simon Yegg. Hawk heads out, one step closer to achieving her goal of busting the secret confederacy known as the Techno Arcadians. Hawk embarks on a labyrinthine journey which brings her closer to the epicenter of the cabal, thus plunging her closer to extrodinary danger.
The Crooked Staircase, Dean Koontz’s recent addition to his Jane Hawk series, recounts Hawk’s continued efforts to save the country from the diabolical manipulations of a secret organization that plans to take over the minds of the population by creating machines of flesh, humans that are essentially programmable computers. Conspiracy theorists will be captivated by the concept. Mystery/thriller fans will enjoy the non-stop action and the convoluted plot.
Soon, Hawk shares the stage with two young people, Tanuja and Sanjay Shukla. However, while Hawk is a skilled hunter, the Shikula twins are innocent prey. The focus shifts smoothly, back and forth, between Hawk and the twins. The skillful handling of these differing plot trajectories will maintain a reader’s attention. While Hawk rushes toward the epicenter of the cabal, the twins run away even they have no idea why they are targeted.
Hawk is a highly trained and intelligent agent. However, she has one weakness, one chink in her Teflon armor, a son she adores. Travis lives hidden away from public view, under the protection of a couple that is dedicated to his survival. Unfortunately, his location is discovered, creating a third plot line. Evil doers launch a ground and air offensive. If Travis is captured, Hawk will fall under the control of the cabal, and the cabal will complete their nefarious machinations.
The characters are realistic, believable, and scaffolded by interesting backstories that flesh them out. The bad guys are easy to hate, and the good guys are all worthy of a reader’s interest and affection.
The author’s style is the antithesis of bare bones. Koontz possesses a literary style that is seasoned and enhances the prose with wonderfully complete imagery that creates a powerful sensory experience. Once in a great while, the imagery slows down the read a bit, but the good outweighs any negative aspects.
The plot is highly complex, mostly due to the use of three plots that are woven together so that while one subplot line rests in a quiescent stage, one of the others takes over and maintains itself as the center of attention. This complexity creates a highly original reading experience. The relentless pursuit of good by evil and evil by good is an engrossing battle of competing oppositions.
Even though The Crooked Staircase is not the first of the series, it is carefully constructed in a manner that guarantees that readers will be able to connect with the three plots and enjoy the book as if it were a standalone. However, there is one caveat. Readers who expect satisfaction at the end of a read will be disappointed. The pace speeds up to a lightning pace toward the end. Readers will be shocked and breathless, wondering who will live and who will die. Will Hawk succeed and clear her name? Will she save her son? Not only does the end fail to satisfy, there is no end. Readers will have to buy the next iteration of the series to see how it ends. Fans of the series will no doubt accept this strategy. On the other hand, readers expending denouement may very well feel manipulated.
The Crooked Staircase by Dean Koontz is highly recommended to those who love action, danger, admirable characters, acts of love, and dramatic cliffhangers.