“ Author: Dean Koontz / Genre: Crime / Thriller / Narrator: Jeff Harding „
Looking around the library for a suitable audio book to listen to on my walk into work, I spotted Brother Odd, the third in the Odd Thomas series of stories from Dean Koontz. I'd read and enjoyed Odd Thomas several years ago and, it has to be said, largely forgotten most of the story but decided I'd give this a try hoping that by missing out the second book, I'd still be able to follow the events in this one. I needn't have worried, this book can be enjoyed as a stand alone without any problem.
Following the loss of his soul mate and in his search for peace, Odd Thomas leaves his home in Pico Mundo to enter St Bartholomew's Abbey, a monastery high in the Sierra Nevada mountains. But for somebody who sees ghosts, can there ever be true peace? Once at the monastery, which besides housing the brothers, also has a convent within its walls and a facility for handicapped children. Odd gets acquainted with many of the inhabitants within St Bart's and as the winter weather closes in, one of those inhabitants, Brother Timothy goes missing and with the bad weather making it impossible for help to come from the outside, Odd begins to investigate. But Brother Timothy's disappearance isn't the only mystery that requires solving because there are several strange inhabitants residing at the monastery, both living and dead, many of whom are holding dark secrets.
Price and availability:
The copy I borrowed from the library was on CD (9 of them!) so I had to dig out my Sony Walkman to listen. There are several other formats available, however, including a Kindle edition as well as new and used paperback copies. Prices range from 1p plus postage for paperback versions with the Kindle version retailing for £5.49.
However old we are I think it's possible to take great pleasure in being read a story and I find listening to audio books a great way to pass the time on my journey to and from work. This audio book is a completely unabridged version of Brother Odd lasting nearly 10 hours in total and is narrated by Jeff Harding.
Jeff Harding is an American actor now living and working in the UK who has recorded several other audio books featuring American protagonists, including The DaVinci Code. His voice, although definitely American, lacks any stridency and I suspect has been somewhat softened by his time in Britain with a result which is rather pleasing to the ear. The only quibble I do have is that Jeff Harding's voice is deep and resonant and certainly isn't that of a young man. As Odd is aged in his early twenties at the time of this story, Jeff Harding's more mature voice seems slightly at odds with the text but only to begin with. As the story progressed, I was so wrapped up in events that I no longer noticed this slight anomaly.
As I began to listen to this book, I immediately remembered why I'd enjoyed reading the first of this series, Odd Thomas. Odd is a very engaging, quirky character with a nice line in self deprecation. He has suffered much in his relatively short life already and yet his innate humour helps to keep him balanced, even when dealing with the ghosts of the recently departed who require Odd to help them pass from limbo into the next life. He's quick to inform the reader that he isn't looking for sympathy but, as he points out, "An entourage of the recently dead is disconcerting and generally not conducive to an upbeat mood."
On his arrival at the monastery, Odd describes his surroundings in words which depict both a menacing atmosphere and yet it's countered by amusing asides. The abbey itself is described as a dark and forbidding building, peopled by not only the living inhabitants but ghostly beings too, all creating a picture of gloomy menace. The stairs in the monastery guest house where he's staying, however, remind Odd of "harlequins, piano keys and treacly old songs by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder." It's this juxtaposing of the grim and the quirky asides which makes this such an engaging story. I'm not a fan of horror as such which generally result in me having sleepless nights but when interlaced with humour, I find tales such as this much more palatable. I should add that this book isn't totally within the horror genre but more likely could be described as a paranormal thriller.
Following the death of Stormy Llewellyn, the love of Odd's life and his soul mate, he's in desperate need of peace and enters the monastery in the hopes of finding it there. But St Bart's is perched high up in the Sierra Nevada mountains and is inhabited by some very strange monks and other beings, including bodochs. Bodochs are black, featureless creatures with knowledge of the future and often when Odd sees them, it's as foretellers of disaster. A single bodach signals impending violence that may be imminent or not but if they appear in twos and threes, the danger is altogether more immediate. In this instance, after following the bodach he first sees from his bedroom window, Odd discovers three of the creatures surrounding the bed of one of the child residents of the monastery.
From then on the story twists and turns, taking the listener on a journey of suspense, horror and thrilling adventure, with Odd, and his several ghostly companions, including the ghost of Elvis who offers some light relief from time to time.
I found this story to be utterly gripping, so much so that I frequently listened not only on my way to and from work but also at lunchtime and even, dare I say this, during working hours! If you enjoy well told stories with a goodly dash of the thrilling and the paranormal, recounted in a slightly wry tone, you'll love this book. Although it can be listened to as a stand alone story, my only regret is that I didn't re-read Odd Thomas before listening to Brother Odd simply to reacquaint myself better with this charming and thoroughly engaging character.
Dean Koontz was born into a very poor family and learned early on to escape into fiction. His novels have sold over 200 million copies worldwide. More than thirty have appeared on national and international bestseller lists. He lives in California with his wife, Gerda and a vivid imagination.