Prodigal Son (Frankenstein Book One), Dean Koontz. New York: Bantam Books, 2009.
Summary: A serial murderer is loose in New Orleans, and something far worse that two detectives begin to unravel, helped by a mysterious, tattooed figure by the name of Deucalion.
A serial murderer is on the loose in New Orleans. A number of women have turned up dead–missing one part of their bodies–feet, hands, ears, lips surgically removed–you get the idea. A few men have also died, with internal organs surgically removed. Detective partners Carson O’Connor and Michael Maddison are leading the investigation. She is intense, hard-driving both inside a car and out. Maddison is her complement–utterly loyal as a partner, always able to deprecate both himself and Carson in a way that keeps it real. Carson also has charge of her autistic younger brother Arnie, building a castle fortress in his room.
The fortress is an image, a warning that there is indeed danger afoot, far worse than just a serial killer. Carson’s first hint is a mysterious visitor, Deucalion. He has come to New Orleans from a monastery abroad, ostensibly the inheritor of a theater. He moves with lightning quickness, practicing an unusual sleight of hand, and tattooed on one side of his face, concealing extensive scars. He claims to be more than two centuries old, assembled from body parts, brought to life in a lightning strike–by Victor Frankenstein. He claims Frankenstein is still alive in New Orleans, also known as Victor Helios, who presents as a city benefactor. He also develops a special bond with Arnie, who is also in danger.
The real truth is far more insidious. Helios has perfected his abilities to create human life, apparently soulless but enhanced creatures, a perfect race being infiltrated throughout society until the day Helios realizes his dream of replacing the human race. Yet something is going wrong. Created without aspirations other than to serve Helios and subservient to his wishes, some are beginning to think, and act, and even kill on their own. It turns out that you cannot create humans and ensure they will remain automatons. They long for meaning, for joy, or even just to escape their bondage to Helios–longings far more human than Helios will permit.
A fellow blogger recommended this book, to amend the lack of “thrillers” in my reading. I can see why Koontz is so popular. It is not because of the depth of his characters. Carson O’Connor and Michael Maddison seem pretty stereotypic characters at this point (there are four more books in this series). It is because of the swift movements and turns of the plot that keep you turning the pages. It’s the ability to keep drawing you deeper into the maelstrom (if you thought this was bad, wait until you see this). Then there is the exploration of the nature of beings made by other human beings. Is there something truly human within? Someday, if it hasn’t already occurred, we will probably find a way to clone human beings. Will we do this with the will to power of Helios? Will we try to de-humanize them as we have with slaves and the trafficked? And what will we do when they cease to buy it?
All I know is that I will start looking for book two, City of Night. Thanks, James.