Books: The Good Guy

I thought when I checked this audiobook out of the library that it was one of Dean Koontz’ more recent novels, but after listening for a while I started wondering if maybe it was an older one. There are no supernatural elements, just a mentally unhinged hit man who enjoys killing people and thinks he came from the world on the other side of the mirror. Oh, and there’s also a secret group of powerful people who are able to act completely outside the law.

Reading through customer reviews at amazon.com, I learned that Koontz does in fact appear to have borrowed a number of elements from previous novels. Several accuse him of becoming formulaic, just throwing together characters and a plotline that have worked before, then telling the story well enough to make them work again.

For me they mostly work. I do enjoy his storytelling style. Some readers think the witty dialogue was out of place in the circumstances (a blooming romance between two people who have just met and are on the run from a murderous psychopath), but I enjoyed it. The characters could have been more convincing and better developed, but that didn’t make it a poor story, just not as good as I might have hoped for.

I can’t say if the ending is believable or not. That’s the thing about conspiracies – if the kind of group Koontz describes really existed, no one would believe that they did, which is what would give them the power to keep manipulating people to achieve their ends. I’m not inclined to believe such a group does exist, but can I say it could not?

One thing I’m not sure what to make of is the extreme reticence of Tim – the “good guy” for which the book is named – to talk about his background. It’s clear, long before the ending when the details are made known, that he must have a background either in the military or law enforcement. He is so clearly a good guy that it can’t be something terrible he has done that he doesn’t want to talk about. (And if you don’t want to know, because you haven’t read the book but plan to, you can stop here.)

Perhaps it is something terrible that happened to him. He does turn out to have witnessed some terrible things. But he was personally responsible for preventing it being much worse, and what he doesn’t want to talk about is his heroism. It’s “in his blood,” he says, just something he is. He finally agrees to tell Linda about it, but only once, and he never wants it brought up again. In the end he doesn’t tell her himself; his friend Pete shows her, on the internet, the Medal of Honor and what Tim did to earn it.

Pete says he has met several other recipients of the Medal of Honor, and they are all similarly humble. I assume that Koontz is giving a realistic assessment of Medal of Honor recipients here, and I found myself wondering why such extreme of courage and humility would go together.

I remember, as a child, daydreaming about being a hero and saving lives. Part of the appeal of it was thinking of being known as a hero. I hope that if the occasion ever arose I would risk my life to save another life, regardless of any opportunity to be known for such heroism. But I can’t help thinking it would be very nice for people to know and appreciate such an act.

As I thought about it, though, I realized that both the heroism and the humility are rooted in a heart tuned more to the needs of others than of self. No doubt people longing for glory can be brave sometimes, but they may be less likely to plunge themselves into the desperate situations that produce Medal of Honor recipients.

Not knowing such a person personally, I can’t say how true-to-life Koontz’s characterization of Tim is. But I’m sure that if, like Linda, I had a hit man coming after me, Tim is the kind of person I’d want to have protecting me.

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