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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Sole Survivor

Dean Koontz is probably best known as a "horror" writer because of all the years that he went toe-to-toe with Stephen King during which the two of them seemed so easily to dominate that particular genre. But with novels like Sole Survivor, which I "read" in audio book format, Koontz has shown that he is also capable of writing a first class thriller.

Joe Carpenter, on the first anniversary of the deaths of his wife and two little girls in a devastating plane crash, is a broken man. He finds himself unable to go back to his newspaper job and living in a garage apartment while hoping for death to mercifully take him. But for reasons that he cannot fully explain to himself, suicide is one option that he has considered and rejected. He prefers to slowly starve himself to death while continuing to grieve at a level that never seems to lessen.

When Joe is finally able to force himself to his family's grave site that day his life takes a sudden turn that is to change it forever because of the stranger who is taking a picture of the headstones as he arrives. Rose, the tiny black woman with the camera, tells him that she was on the flight that killed his family and that, when she is better prepared, she has something to tell him about the crash. Before she can say more she is forced to run for her life from the two gunmen who suddenly rush the graves, and Joe finds himself sucked into a mysterious plot to hush up the truth about the plane crash that claimed the lives of 230 people.

Joe soon comes to the realization that his life is in danger from the same people who chased Rose from the cemetery, but because Rose has gifted him with the reason to live that he didn't have after losing his family, he is determined to find her and to get the answers that she has promised him. He still has the skills of the newspaper reporter that he had been before the plane crash, and over the next few days he comes to believe that Rose really did what seems to be the impossible by walking away from the horrible crash that so completely destroyed the bodies of all on board the plane that day.

Dare he hope for other survivors? Why does someone want to kill everyone who comes into contact with Rose? Who is behind the conspiracy to keep the truth about that fatal flight hidden and is the government involved? Joe only knows that, if he is to survive his brush with Rose, he has to find the answers to those questions, and he has to find them soon.

Sole Survivor is an excellently paced thriller, one that keeps the reader guessing along with Joe as he tries to unravel the mystery that has claimed the lives of his family. We feel some of the same emotions that he feels as his bewilderment morphs from hope to despair, and back to hope, while he fights both for survival and a reason to live the rest of his life. David Birney, reader of the audio book, does a good job expressing the various emotions that Joe Carpenter experiences during the course of this story and his reading style adds to the high level of suspense and mystery that builds all the way toward what proves to be the novel's satisfying ending.

Rated at: 3.0
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