Odd Thomas sees dead people and, sometimes, he tries to help them. He lives in small town Pico Mundo, California, the Mojave desert. He’s a short order cook for a local diner. He keeps his life simple (no car, no cell phone) because these dead people complicate it. And more complications just walked in with Mr. Robert Thomas Robertson. Death follows him around in the shape of many bodocks, invisible creatures only Odd can see. Something horrible is about to happen in Pico Mundo and Odd only has so much time to figure out what and where and stop it.
This was my first Dean Koontz novel and I enjoyed it far more than I expected to. Odd is a very engaging character. The story is a strange mix of humor, everyday boring stuff, and dark issues. It works very well and I was sucked into the story early on and didn’t want to put this book down. Right away, the author introduces us to both Odd’s humdrum workaday life and also the creepier, disturbing side. Penelope was killed viciously and now her ghost wants him to bring her killer to justice. Right away, Odd confronts the killer and a foot chase ensues. Eventually, the killer is subdued and the cops called.
Now here is another aspect I really enjoyed – the characters already have pasts and alliances and grudges have been made. Luckily, Odd is friends with police chief Wyatt Porter. Many times, Porter and Odd have worked out some story to explain why Odd fingered someone as the perpetrator of some crime. This relationship comes in super handy, as you might imagine.
Along the same lines, Odd and Stormy Llewelyn have been together for some years now. Odd talks about her often through the tale. So while she has limited page time, we learn quite a bit about her through Odd. She was orphaned young and raised in an orphanage until of an age. She and Odd met as kids and Odd truly believes they are meant to be together forever. I love this relationship. They are very comfortable with each other and have a future planned. There’s mutual respect and plenty love between these two.
The plot was more intricate than I expected. It starts with Bob Robertson, who is nicknamed the Mushroom Man because of his pasty, soft looks and light colored suits. In the past, Odd has seen a few bodocks. He knows these creatures (which look like a spooky cross between a large cat, a hyena, and a wolf) are attracted to death. Yet the Mushroom Man has several swarming around him, following him everywhere. Odd immediately goes into investigation mode, borrowing a car, and finding out where the man lives. I thought things would be exciting but rather straight forward from this point on. I was wrong.
The plot thickens with a dead body. As Odd discovers more clues, he finds himself suspecting some of the good guys. Is it just paranoia or is there something deeper going on here? It was complex and engaging the entire time. I wasn’t sure where things would end up until Odd had put the pieces together.
I only have two minor criticisms for this book. I’m not an Elvis fan and really have no interest in him or his music, so sometimes all the Elvis trivia was a bit boring for me. The second thing is this one scene that involves a pitch black room. I don’t want to give away any spoilers. But I didn’t really understand why it was pitch black and later what that had to do with the big picture.
There’s quite the eclectic cast in this story. Odd’s landlady fears she will become invisible one day, so she asks him every day if he can see her. Then there is the lady who works at the diner who knows everything there is to know about Elvis (who’s ghost hangs out in Pico Mundo for some unknown reason). Little Ozzie the writer and his evil cat Mr. Withers, Viola and her two daughters, even Odd’s separated parents – all of these characters add so much to the story. Even some locations, like the Whispering Burger, are practically characters in the tale because they are so very interesting.
The ending was unexpected all around. I really liked this as I like being surprised by what I am reading. Since this is a series, I expected Odd to save the day, but for a moment there, I was truly worried that would not happen. The cost of saving the day was also unexpected. I am definitely looking forward to Book 2 in the series.
The Narration: David Aaron Baker did a great job. There was such a variety of voices in this book and he pulled it off. His regional accents were great. His female voices were believable. He had the perfect voice for Odd.