He still keeps saying, “I’m just a fry cook,” even though it’s been 19 months since he last wielded a spatula in anger. During that time, he has followed the tug of his psychic senses from one horrific ordeal to another. He has stopped mass murders before they happened. He has staved off a nuclear apocalypse, canceled an alien invasion, and unpicked a snarl in the fabric of space time. He has exterminated nests of serial killers, rescued kidnapping victims from demonic villains and their undead minions, and helped the restless spirits of the dead move on to the next big thing. He has accepted help from spunky old ladies, protected the lives of innocent children, and in all probability, saved the world. But he doesn’t like to think of himself as anything more than a humble fry cook. It’s one of the things we love about Odd Thomas.
The narrative arc of a New York City-dwelling, legally nonexistent, average looking tough guy who fixes problems for a living continues to bend toward darker and stranger regions of fantasy and horror. Certainly by this book, if you haven’t picked up the vibe before now, you must be aware that the series is headed toward a final battle over the fate of the world, a battle in which Jack may stand alone between the human race and the ultimate darkness.
In the fifth of 16 “Repairman Jack” novels, a strange Russian lady with a large white dog appears at Jack’s sickbed and tells him that he, and he alone, must stop a virus that the adversary of all mankind has unleashed to create war, hate, death, fear, pain, and destruction.
In the sixth “Odd Thomas” novel, a young fry cook who sees dead people continues his sabbatical from the spatula and grill. As in his previous two adventures, he finds trouble brewing in a misnamed California coastal town. In “Odd Hours” it was Magic Beach, where practically everything in town is named contrary to its nature, where premonitions of nuclear disaster forced him into the role of avenging angel, and where he was joined in his travels by a mysterious pregnant girl named Annamaria. In “Odd Interlude”, the town was Harmony Corners, where Annamaria memorably pointed out that there was no harmony and where an entire clan lived as slaves of a psychic puppet-master with ET DNA. Now Odd finds himself in the guest tower of a country estate called Roseland, where there are no roses, and something (by any other name) smelleth rotten. He senses that it may be the most evil place he has ever visited. He wants to leave immediately. But Annamaria tells him that someone at Roseland needs to be saved, and only Odd can do it.
In the fourth “Repairman Jack” novel, the rakoshi are back. Those were the blue-skinned, yellow-eyed, man-eating demons from Indian prehistory, who terrorized Jack and his loved ones in “The Tomb”. Now the last rakosh—the one who left his claw-marks on Jack’s chest—has turned up in a freak show at the same quaint Long Island town where Jack battled the otherness in “Conspiracies”. Jack is torn between killing it, to make sure it can never hurt Gia and Vicky again, and leaving it alone to die in captivity. But his decision is complicated by an outbreak of extreme violence, the result of a designer drug that has become all the rage (ha, ha) in the streets of Manhattan.
This book is an exception to the rule as “Odd Thomas” adventures go, even apart from its origin as an e-book serial. Until now, Odd has used his paranormal abilities—seeing dead people, psychic magnetism, the occasional prophetic dream, etc.—mainly to stave off merely mortal monsters. His powers have helped him to stay alive while killing evil people before they can carry out their plans to cause death on an even more massive scale. He cut short an attempt to shoot up and bomb a shopping mall. He saved a hostage from a witchy woman and her wacko minions. He protected a schoolful of monks, nuns, and disabled children from a mad scientist’s killer experiment. And he defused a conspiracy to nuke several American cities and use the chaos to take over the country. Though the mysterious power that keeps pulling him from one crisis to another has been picking up speed and magnitude like an avalanche—though Odd very reasonably suspects that he can’t survive much more of this—he can at least take comfort in the fact that, apart from his psychic powers, he has only had to cope with normal human wickedness. More or less.
Jack is still trying to live life his way—which means being non-existent in the eyes of the System. No criminal record. No tax filings. No social security number. Fake identities only. The rapid pace of technology both helps and hinders him in this quest. Email and voicemail are easier to deal with than having to check the answering machine in a dummy office. Credit cards, paid off promptly in the name of dead children, make it easier to go unnoticed as he buys supplies for his problem-fixing business. On the other hand, government databases make it harder to get away with all this victimless identity theft. It’s hard for a hands-on kind of guy to keep up with the fast-changing world, especially when (going by the books’ publication dates) last summer was 16 years ago. It’s hard to stay committed to a risky, often violent line of work when there’s a beautiful woman worrying about you and a sweet little girl counting on you. And that’s not even bringing up Jack’s dad, who wants him to move down to Florida and get a real job.
In Book 3 of the “Odd Thomas” series, the young fry cook who sees dead people has retreated to a monastery in the mountains for a needed break from the stress of his quiet hometown. He only wants a little time to heal from two harrowing encounters with monsters in human form. But his respite is cut short by the appearance of bodachs at the abbey—or more precisely, in the school for mentally and physically disabled children run by nuns, next door to the monastery. These silent, shadowy creatures always seem drawn to places where there will soon be violence on a big scale. For reasons Odd cannot begin to guess, the gloating bodachs have started to crowd around these defenseless and unwanted children. He has only a day or two to figure out how to protect them, and from whom. Or what.
Yes, Odd Thomas is odd. But Odd is also his first name. And yes, Odd Thomas is a little stressed out by the fact that he sees dead people and the trouble that sometimes accompanies their apparition. In fact, he’s worried about his mental health, and his experiences have aged him way beyond his 21 years, at least in his mind. So when his second volume of memoirs kicks in, we find him on a leave of absence from the fry cook job that he does so well but that he doesn’t think his nerves can take. He is starting to think about getting into the tire business (installation, not sales) since it seems even less demanding than slinging hash. He is still pulling himself together after the death of his fiancée Stormy. He is enjoying the quiet of the small Mojave Desert town of Pico Mundo, California. And he is still rooming with Elvis, the rock ‘n’ roll legend turned silent ghost.
This book is a thriller and chiller of the sort that probably would have turned stomachs a generation ago. But if you’ve been watching CSI and its spinoffs, you may already have an idea what decaying corpses look like—though, mercifully, not so much how they smell and feel. So this may be the perfect time to read a book featuring ripening bodies, graveyard dirt, and the last days of a secret subculture of grave-robbers. All the same, the content and language in this book demand an Adult Content Advisory. This may be a young-adult novel, but before parents and teachers recommend it to young adults, they should be advised that the young adults in it speak and behave like the real-life young adults in today’s high school scene. This means sexual content, strong language, and vicious bullying by both adults and fellow teens. But the darkness of the world that envelops its main character, eleventh grader Joey Crouch, is more disturbing still. Mature readers wanted!