Books: The Key to Midnight

I picked out this book from the library shelf for two reasons: it was large print, and it was by Dean Koontz. It was a very enjoyable read, and not just because I didn’t have to bother with my reading glasses. (I can read using my bifocals but it’s getting harder, and I am not ready to invest in a new pair of bifocals.) I would not have guessed it was by Dean Koontz, however, if his name hadn’t been on the cover.

As Koontz explains in the Afterword, this was initially written under a pseudonym, and is his only novel in the action/suspense/romance genre. He did some significant rewriting before having it reprinted, both to update events in the book (it originally took place during the Cold War, which turns out to be important to the plot) and to improve the writing. It might be interesting to compare the revised novel with the original – but that would probably be my only reason to reread the book.

Many of Koontz’s books are compelling not just for the suspense but for the depth of the characters and of the thematic elements. The main characters in The Key to Midnight were likeable enough and interesting in how their background shaped who they are. But I didn’t feel the kind of emotional tie I do to some of Koontz’s characters. There were interesting ideas about what can be done – both good and bad – with hypnosis. But there were no deep ideas about human potential (for good or evil) or hope or justice or other themes common in Koontz’s novels.

The plot has enough twists and turns to keep one’s interest right to the end, including a very surprising development very near the end. But now that the secrets have been revealed, I have no reason to want to read the book again. In contrast, I would (and plan to someday) reread the Odd Thomas books and those featuring Christopher Snow, because those characters are compelling and the writing in those novels so enjoyable to read.

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