This could possibly be the last good Dean Koontz novel. I only say "possibly" because I have yet to read RELENTLESS, which was published after this one, and do not hold high hopes for me liking it.
Written in 2006, three years after the stellar debut of Pico Mundo's paranormally-inclined fry cook, THE HUSBAND avoids all the typical Koontz trappings. There's no witty/sarcastic narrator, no uber smart Golden, no blond female lead, no unrealistic dialogue, absolutely zero filler, and not a hint of quirky, preposterous, mustache-twirling villainous types.
There's something truly fresh about this book, and I think what stands out the most is, Koontz actually managed to scare me again. There are more than a few scenes from the kidnapped wife's POV that chilled me to the bone. One especially terrifying chapter has the kidnapper's voice circling her in the darkness, drawing closer, drifting away, leaning in, ebbing... sometimes it's so close that she fears he's about to kiss her. I'm not doing justice to the scene, but suffice to say that, after reading it, I needed a space heater to thaw the blood in my veins. I haven't felt that way during a Koontz novel since reading DRAGON TEARS in 1993, and I think that novel only scared me because I was 13 years old. Back then, Barney the Big Purple Pedophile scared the shit out of me.
Our main character, Mitch, is a likable enough guy, but by the end of THE HUSBAND, he's a broken individual. He manages some pretty nasty and twisted things after finding out why his wife was kidnapped. If I'd been in Mitch's shoes, well... the song "Five Minutes Alone", by Pantera, comes to mind. Needless to say, I still rooted for the man Mitch became, but I was a tad more fearful of him than for him.
In the last Koontz book I read, the MC (a pastry chef) droned on and on about this baked good or that tasty confection. It was useless information, and as boring as turtle sex. Koontz is also known for describing at length plantlife in exceedingly banal prose. When I first started THE HUSBAND and found out that the MC was a gardener, I almost slammed the book closed. I thought, "Wonderful... now he has a reason to bore me to death," but I continued to read. Boy, am I ever glad I did.
The ending ties everything up nicely if a bit too quickly. But I think the finale only speeds by because the middle of the book is so well paced. Koontz had me on the edge of my seat for over 95% of this book, so much so that I didn't want the ride to end. Sweet baby Tom Cruise, I wish he still wrote like this. I did deduct half a star for the tacked-on final chapter. It read as if someone told Koontz: "You have to say something about what happened afterward. Toss in a one-page epilogue of sorts and call it a day." To which Koontz responded: "Fuckin' A. I'm on that shit like scars on John Wayne Bobbit!" The final thousand words of THE HUSBAND are so rushed and heartless you'll feel as if you've just been raped by a rabbit that suffers from premature ejaculation, leaving you with this final thought: "That was brief and uncalled for."
In summation, should you choose to read a Dean Koontz book from this century, pick up THE HUSBAND. It won't win any literary awards, but it's a tense thriller by a former master of suspense. This is Koontz on his game, and it shouldn't be missed. Highly recommended.