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The Crooked Staircase: A Jane Hawk Novel

Review

The Crooked Staircase: A Jane Hawk Novel

Bestselling author Dean Koontz has been thrilling readers with his stories for five decades. The majority of his books have been stand-alone works in the horror, sci-fi and thriller genres. But when Koontz finds a character he likes, there is a flood of novels featuring them. We have seen this with Odd Thomas and Christopher Snow in two of his prior series. The release of THE CROOKED STAIRCASE marks the third Jane Hawk thriller in the past two years. It's obvious he enjoys spending time with Jane as the end of this latest volume already features the first seven chapters of the next installment in the series, THE FORBIDDEN DOOR.

As the story opens, we follow a young woman named Sara to her home. Inside, having bypassed all the security in place, is a mysterious woman who asks Sara to take a seat as she explains herself. Her intentions are not ill, quite the opposite. She has been abused and mistreated just as Sara has, and their enemies are the same. Sara's life had been shattered by the sudden and unexpected divorce from her husband Simon and the smearing of her professional career as a realtor. Sara's guest understands this and wants Simon not just for revenge on Sara's behalf, but as a conduit to the real target: his brother, Booth Hendrickson.

This mystery woman is none other than Jane Hawk, and she is still on a mission to bring down the evil and powerful individuals behind a series of forced suicides on a slew of innocent people. One of these victims was Jane's beloved husband, Nick. Jane, with Sara's assistance, is able to locate Simon and torture the information she needs from him. She also allows Simon to get a distress message of sorts out to his brother that she knows will bring him out of hiding and into a space where she can abduct him.

"Perhaps it speaks to [Koontz's] maturity as a writer that this current series comprises the most character-driven narratives he has ever written."

At the same time, we are introduced to twins from India, brother and sister Sanjay and Tanuja Shukla. They have special gifts that have made them the target of the same group Jane is looking to bring down. Known by many names, the group is referred to here as the Techno Arcadians. The siblings flee these bad men throughout parts of California but are ultimately taken down by two particularly devious members of the group known as Dubose and Jergen. The Shuklas give it a good go but are apprehended, and the Manchurian Candidate-style mind control games begin.

Meanwhile, Jane enlists the help of a good friend, the mortician Gilberto, to kidnap Hendrickson. Things do not go exactly as planned, but they are eventually successful. What happens next is not the immediate torture you might expect as way of revenge by Jane, but a reverse brainwashing that will force Hendrickson to comply to their demands. This includes taking them to the place where the mind control all began --- down the Crooked Staircase into rooms that hold answers for which Jane may not be ready.

The storyline with the Shukla twins continues as they are under the control of the bad guys. At the same time, we see excerpts from the fantasy novel Alecto Rising written by Tanuja and featuring an allegorical tale not far off from the very real events that are happening between the Arcadians and those they seek to control. Things continue at sometimes breakneck speed until the final reveal where the mind-controlled Hendrickson brings Jane to the series of underground caverns that contain the mysterious Crooked Staircase. It is inside one of the rooms to which this staircase leads that Jane finds out the truth behind the powerful individual who created Hendrickson and made him what he is today --- a person with influence and strength by whom she is instantly intimidated, a person who knows about her hunt for her son, Travis, and wants to find him before she does.

THE CROOKED STAIRCASE is not as good as the first two entries in the Jane Hawk series --- it's better! It has just the right amount of paranoia coupled with electric suspense that had me continuously looking at the author's name on the jacket’s spine to assure myself I was not reading a Jeff Abbott book. Koontz has penned many novels that feature evil, clandestine government agencies causing all sorts of trouble. In the past, he would take that plot gimmick and include either a psychic child or a magical Golden Retriever. Perhaps it speaks to his maturity as a writer that this current series comprises the most character-driven narratives he has ever written.

I join millions of Koontz fans who are waiting patiently for THE FORBIDDEN DOOR to be released so we can spend more time with the wonderful Jane Hawk.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on May 11, 2018

The Crooked Staircase: A Jane Hawk Novel
by Dean Koontz

  • Publication Date: August 28, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam
  • ISBN-10: 0525483691
  • ISBN-13: 9780525483694