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I've never read anything by this author before and probably isn't something I would buy myself - I was away for the weekend and the accommodation had this sat on the book shelf so I thought I would give it a go.
From reading the back I was expecting it to be a little scary and full of suspense. It wasn't particularly scary in how it was written but it did keep me turning the pages so I guess it did have a good amount of suspense in the plot.
The book is about a guy (Benjamin Chase) who is back from war and is dealing with the emotional effects of this. He witnesses a murder, is harassed by the murderer and then proceeds to investigate the matter himself. In the process Benjamin Chase discovers a lot about himself and starts to deal with some of the effects of war. I felt it was well written and the main character was very believable (even if the plot wasn't completely so).
It's very easy to read and isn't a thick book - I read it very quickly. If I come across another book by Koontz I would be inclined to buy it! Therefore I'm giving it four out of five.
Another day, another Koontz, another one word title. THE PLOT Ben Chase lives alone, wracked by guilt for his killing of some civilians during the Vietnam War and yet hailed as a national hero and awarded a medal for bravery. One night he finds himself at a local teenage smooching spot when he notices a suspicious male approaching one of the lovers? cars. He follows but is two late to save the life of the young man within but saves his girlfriend from a similar fate. The assailant escapes. Chase then receives a telephone call from the assailant, who states that he will now evaluate Chase?s life and then execute him if he is found to deserve death as retribution for him getting in the way of his last murder. He asks to be known as Judge. The attempts on Chase?s life then begin but the police do not believe him after examine his psychological records. Chase is on his own. He must identify Judge, track him down and deal with him before he becomes the next victim. CHARACTERISATION The only character whom we get to know in any great depth is that of Ben Chase. During the War he was ordered to open fire on some civilians, including women and children. He is disabled by guilt and constantly seems to find ways to punish himself; he has withdrawn from society, lost his libido and deliberately exposes himself to unnecessary risks. On the facts of the matter we should not sympathise with a man who has murdered defenceless women and children and yet Koontz attempts to help us empathise with him. His actions are ameliorated by his self-destructive guilt and his own evident self-loathing. While these actions alone do not make up for his wartime activities, he is the central character of the novel and as such we are bound to give him the benefit of the doubt. So we learn to see him as ?as much a victim of his society as the Vietnamese women had been victims of theirs? (although this glib statement ov
erlooks the fact that the women were shot by American soldiers and not by representatives of their society!) In any event Chase is fighting against an obvious madman who sees fornication as a sin and is attempting to cleanse the world of sinners. When a psychotic killer is vying against a man whose crimes are ethically complex, the readers allegiances will easily lie with the ex-soldier who was forced into a position where he had to follow orders. Our sympathies for Chase are heightened as the police begin to disbelieve his story. He has told them that he has been receiving phone calls from the assailant and yet their obvious incredulity at this assertion, after discussing Chase?s state of mind with his psychiatrist, angers the reader and bonds us further to Chase?s position. From this moment we are firmly on his side and, having developed a dislike for the police?s attitude, we are also willing to support what become Chase?s vigilante efforts to track down and deal with the killer. SCARE FACTOR Chase is being stalked and it is almost a race against time to identify Judge before the killer exacts his murderous judgment on our hero. These circumstances should lead to heightened tension and an excitingly paced novel. However, as the attempts are made on our hero?s life we are told that Judge is obviously not a consummate professional; his shots are poor, his driving skills are not good and even when they come face to face, Chase?s hand-to-hand fighting abilities are superior. Given all these facts we find it hard to be truly worried about our hero?s life. The killer is insane and also inept. It is difficult to fear for Chase?s life and we are never in any real doubt that he will overcome the threats from Judge. In spite of this, we have built up an empathy with our hero and so are interested in the outcome of the pursuit, even though we have an inkling of what that might be. IT?S A SIN
Our madman thinks that fornicating is a sin, killing civilians in wartime is a sin and promiscuity is a sin. These are all tenuously credible statements. What is harder to come to terms with is what Koontz reveals of his own opinions within the novel. We learn that Judge may be a homosexual. The narrative voice refers to homosexuality as being an ?amelioration? and a ?hang up?. Even Judge himself tells Chase that he recognises that due to his sexuality he is himself a sinner. Are these indications of Koontz?s own prejudices? Or are they supposed to reflect on Judge to show how deep seated are his psychoses? The first two phrases, however, are used to describe what our hero thinks of homosexuality, so it is hard to believe that the reader is supposed to attach these bigoted attitudes to the psychological makeup of the killer. Within the book these are not major issues but were just elements that I picked up on and seemed to stand out from the page and slap me round the face as not being quite at ease with the rest of the narrative. (Reading a Koontz book can be more than just psychologically dangerous!) JUDGE AND JURY The book was an easy read. I was able to empathise with the hero and was interested in the outcome of the novel. I never really feared for Chase?s life and I was never on the edge of my seat but the book was a pleasurable interlude in my reading regime. It was not one of Koontz?s best works but certainly worth a read. OTHER INFO Publisher: Headline Book Publishing plc, 79 Great Titchfield St, London Price: £5.99 ISBN: 0-7472-3525-2