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The Husband    by Dean Koontz order for
by Dean Koontz
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, Audio, CD

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*   Reviewed by Belle Dessler

Mitch Rafferty is a happily married man. Since meeting his wife, his life has steadily fallen into place. He's managed to come to terms with his relationship with his emotionally distant parents, and now owns a small two-man landscaping business. Things can't get much better for Mitch, but they can get worse. Much worse.

One day, as Mitch is planting impatiens, he receives a chilling phone call. The male voice on the other end announces that his wife has been kidnapped. He can have her back ... for two million dollars. Not only does Mitch not have anywhere near that sum, but there's no way he can get it. The kidnappers believe otherwise. He can find the money, they tell him, if he loves her enough. What follows is a race against time as Mitch struggles to raise the ransom, stay alive, keep out of the police's way and ultimately rescue his wife from the hands of kidnappers who won't stop until they have what they're after.

I've been a fan of Dean Koontz for years. His novels are suspenseful and well-written, with an intensity that is aided by three-dimensional, well-rounded characters. Unfortunately, this latest offering didn't live up to Koontz's earlier work. The first third of the book, as Mitch struggles to deal with frightening circumstances that are quickly spinning out of his control, is wonderful. Mitch's terror and frustration come through clearly in every page. I was on the edge of my seat, eager to discover how a man who has never had to deal with violence does what he has to do to save the woman he loves.

And that's where the plot gets murky. To say more would give away a major plot twist, but suffice it to say that the groundwork laid in the first hundred pages veers off in a completely different direction. This change sets Mitch on a new trajectory, one that is much darker and quite disturbing. Still, despite that major complaint, this book contains Koontz's signature heart-stopping action and emotional overtones. Newcomers to Koontz's wok will likely find what they're looking for in this suspenseful novel, but fans may be disappointed.

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