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In BREATHLESS, Dean Koontz shows his fans why he is such a brilliant storyteller. His imagination moves even the stoic naysayer, and his exploration of the paranormal is a literary event in itself in this tale that weaves together many seemingly unrelated stories of terror, hardship and agony.

BREATHLESS begins in rural Colorado with an unassuming character named Grady Adams and his dog, Merlin. An enormous Irish wolfhound, Merlin established superiority in his domain by his size alone, notwithstanding his gentle nature. Today, the man and his canine friend stroll at the edge of Grady’s property into the nearby woods. Both suddenly halt, thunderstruck by the sight directly ahead. They witness two white furry animals the size of medium dogs but agile as large cats. Playful, the two allow man and dog to approach, then turn away and head to the forest.

Adams and his longtime friend and neighbor, Cammy Rivers, are enchanted with Merlin’s new-found playmates as the white creatures now make Grady’s place their home. But sinister events shake up the fragile status quo when outside influences assert a nasty presence.

Rivers, who is a veterinarian, also has her own tale when she is called to treat a kennel of abused golden retrievers. The dogs, catatonic when brought in by a rescue group, will be a challenge to heal. However, when Cammy arrives, an event has occurred that cannot be explained by medicine. The dogs stand as one unit as if listening to a common, emerging sound, no longer timid and completely socialized. In addition, their eyes glow with a bright topaz inner light, and this inexplicable event may just spell certain doom for the small town.

Koontz writes a third story also set in Colorado, that of rural resident James Carlyle, wife Nora, and identical twin brother Henry Rouvroy. Henry, a Harvard-educated savant, arrives at Jim’s farm, bent on executing a plan he has long developed. Country poems, Jim’s haiku verses in particular, foreshadow the agony his twin brings to the humble farm.

A scenario in Las Vegas introduces Dr. Lamar Woolsey, a scientist studying chaos. Taking small bets to major wins at the Vegas tables, this card shark gifts his winnings to others, puzzling the pit bosses. A conference in Denver forces him to leave Vegas, but along the way his attentions are quickly diverted to a U.S. government project that just may have something to do with the strange occurrences in the once quiet Colorado town.

Koontz then takes us a little more west to California for the starting point of Tom Bigger’s story. Bigger is a homeless man, his face horribly disfigured and living on the beach in sheltered caves. When a great blue heron nearly five feet tall brushes past him, he sees the event as a sign for his future and sets out walking with his backpack on a journey east to a future unknown.

Readers will long to discover the common thread that winds through these seemingly disparate stories. Although it appears unlikely at first, Koontz is able to satisfy his audience by presenting a believable connection that brings all these stories together for an enjoyable --- and plausible --- conclusion. BREATHLESS is a modern story, one of relationships gone wrong and ones made right, the possibility of government interference in a citizen’s life, struggles for acceptance and ultimate wonder at the unexplainable. Koontz truly leaves his reader breathless by book’s end.

Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on December 23, 2010

by Dean Koontz

  • Publication Date: November 24, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam
  • ISBN-10: 0553807153
  • ISBN-13: 9780553807158