The City Review
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Once upon a time, Dean Koontz was known simply as a horror writer—one whose novels inspired many of his readers to sleep with the lights on. Lately, though, Koontz has been reinventing himself—and while you may not get the same leave-the-lights-on thrills from his latest novel, The City, you’ll be haunted by it nonetheless.

The City relates the unbelievable tale of young Jonah Kirk, as reflected upon by his 50-something self. The son of a singer and the grandson of a talented piano man, Jonah grew up surrounded by music—and it was inevitable that he would follow in his family’s footsteps. But if it hadn’t been for a magical woman—and a few remarkable dreams—things might have not turned out so well for Jonah Kirk.

As a child, Jonah met Miss Pearl, a beautiful and mysterious woman who showed up just when he needed her, offering wisdom, insight, and a push in the right direction. And when trouble shows up at the budding piano man’s door, Miss Pearl’s forewarnings open Jonah’s eyes to the dangers that await him and his family.

More than just another scary story, The City is a novel that defies categorization. On one hand, it’s a crime thriller—the story of a growing number of unsolved crimes and the unusual team of amateurs who band together to uncover them. It’s also a paranormal drama, thanks to the mysterious woman who guides Jonah along the way. And, of course, it’s a story about music—about its power to soothe, to heal, and to create lifelong bonds.

Most of all, though, The City is a lyrical and sometimes emotional drama—a story of family, of unexpected friendships, and of overcoming tragedies. From the first page, it has its own spirit, its own individual style—a kind of beautiful melancholy that grows more and more haunting with each passing chapter. And while 50-something Jonah doesn’t offer the most distinctive narration, the story is made of likable but unlikely heroes—from smooth, piano-playing Grandpa Teddy to Jonah’s quiet, unassuming neighbor, Mr. Yoshioka, to geeky, sax-playing Malcolm.

The villains, meanwhile, simply linger in the background. These aren’t strong, well-developed characters; they’re little more than a means to an end—a necessary evil. But that’s because this isn’t their story. It’s Jonah’s story—and he and his friends and family members are sure to capture you with both their music and their magic.

The City isn’t what you might expect from Dean Koontz. It’s smooth and understated, with strong characters and subtle touches of mystery and paranormal suspense. It may not keep you up all night, afraid to fall asleep, but it’s an elegant, even poetic story that will haunt you from beginning to end.

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