The Other Emily by Dean Koontz

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The Other Emily by Dean Koontz

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A thriller that gives us heaps of tonal shifts and possible genre changes on our way through the story of a man facing his lover, unchanged for all the ten years since she was missing presumed murdered.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 362 Date: March 2021
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1542019958

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Our hero David Thorne is an author, who shares his life between the two US coasts. It's the western coast we're concerned with, a place he has to return to, and a place he has to be able to leave. David lost contact with his partner there ten years ago, when she vanished from a remote road late at night. He's paying for contact with the man he thinks the only suspect, a lifer now, who went a bit Hannibal Lecter, and has a dozen and more unfound Jane Does on his record. David is trying to pry the connection between the murderer and his girl from the man's mind, but to no avail. He's also having a recharge ready for his next hit novel when into the restaurant walks the sheer spitting image, the very embodiment, the virtual resurrection, of his love. What is a man to do?

That much I knew about this book before opening it. That much was very quickly, snappily, confirmed. But while that's a perfect pitch, a wonderful premise, the problem any author would have would surely be sustaining it, making the full story as page-turning as it deserved. And it's a relief to say this author knows how to turn that into a full-length work, and knows several ways of doing so. There's a seduction/sex scene that is woozy in its feel, that makes us unsure of what the heck is going on. There's a suggestion we'll go down the sci-fi road when cutting-edge scientists get to feature, there's a hint of a potential for magic to be involved, and of course this writer can bring his horror/fantasy experience to the fore.

Principally what he does to keep the pages turning is to go beyond the pitch, and to give us more than we expected. I'd looked at that summary, as I say, and assumed he was going to revive those particularly 1990s cinema thrillers, like The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, and other such imposter-led, human cuckoo, subverting-your-way-under-the-sheets stories. But he definitely leaves those for dead.

So even if I didn't quite like the full explanation we get for what the heck was going on (and, it must be noted, neither will purist thriller fans), I did find this a commendable read. I think it might have been a bit tauter - he describes if not one then ten sunsets too many for my taste, and seems to drop too many semi-obscure words into things to prove he's got similar authorly chops to his hit writer character. One element of the back-story regarding David is guessable from the get-go. Also he does seem to repeat himself on David's self-judgment, telling us time and time again the two options in his mind when it comes to Maddison, the potential imposter/simulacrum/miracle. But I was still on board all the way, for the very reason that despite the over-writing, this moved very pacily, and I really appreciated the flirting with different genres we all witnessed en route to the end.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

The Long Dark Road by P R Black is a more traditional thriller concerning someone seeking someone else snatched from the roadside on the stereotypical dark and stormy night.

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