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Published in 1993, this thriller centers around detective Harry Lyons, a habit-driven, perpetually neat California cop who, along with his partner Connie Gulliver, knocks off a drugged up gunman in a crowded restaurant. Soon after, Harry is accosted by an immense hobo who ensures him that “Tick-tock, you have 16 hours to live.”
Harry isn’t the only one visited by this mysterious street denizen. A down-and-out businessman, and a street urchin and her young companion have all been told that their time on the earth is short. And since Harry involved his partner, Connie is also on the hit parade.
Now, Harry has to figure out how to stop this monstrosity before the thing stops him. To make matters a bit more complicated, it seems his new friend has the ability to appear out of nowhere…say, a dust devil of leaves, for instance, or even better, a colony of rats…and disappear just as quickly. Bullets don’t stop him (It was tried), nor do locked doors. So it’s tick-tock for Harry and Connie and company.
All in all, this read was everything that is inherently promised just by cracking open a Koontz work. The pace is incredible, non-stop, and gripping. If fact, if you write fiction, I’d suggest reading it twice (at least), once for pleasure, and once to take notes. Mr. Koontz is the MAN when it comes to erecting suspense, and DT delivers on every bit of his reputation. The plot is masterful, and as people are added, they are seamlessly joined to the scheme. Harry and Connie, while ostensably polar opposites, have at their root the desire to be good cops – even though they each have their own reasons. They play off (and feed off) each other remarkably well, and propel the story forward with their energy and drive.
Although Harry and Connie are the main characters, at their back is a small troop of additional folks, all of whom have their reasons for wanting to live, and who add even more tension to Harry’s adventure – and more reasons to overcome the bloodthirsty stranger. Oh, yes, bloodthirsty. Mr. Koontz is kind enough to give us a very colorful background of the dark man (To one he’s Rat Man, to another Tick-Tick), and sprinkles these little gems throughout the book. So you are constantly supplied with info that allows you to realize this guy is waaaaaaaaay beyond folks like Manson and Dahmer.
There’s one little part of the book…a little bigger than little, really…that keeps me from giving this one five out of five. The dog. Yeah, the dog. He’s a street mutt, glued to the side of the lady with the kid, and he’s a very smart street mutt. But, I have a bit of a problem giving him (or any dog) the credit for intelligence that Mr. Koontz allows. It was a real sticking point for me, and while it didn’t necessarily ruin the book, it did detract a bit from my enjoyment. I’m a real stickler for things making sense (yeah, yeah, I know, it’s fiction, and things aren’t always supposed to make sense), and some of the things this gifted canine thinks and does. Well – you’ll just have to read it, and judge for yourself.
Said “man’s best friend” notwithstanding, I give Dragon Tears four solid stars, and yeah, Master Koontz is still just that.