Cubby Greenwich finds himself in the sights of a murderous and relentless book critic and now must do everything he can to save his wife, his extraordinary child and their dog from certain and excruciatingly painful death. Cubby Greenwich, a novelist married to the woman of his dreams Penny Boom, and father to an extraordinarily and prodigiously intelligent six year old Milo, has just released his sixth novel. The family and their dog Lassie are enjoying a normal day at home when Cubby receives a phone call from his agent. He learns that his new book has been reviewed by the infamously harsh and yet very well respected critic Shearman Waxx and that it was found to be severely lacking. Against the better advice of his wife, Greenwich reads the review and is horrified to discover that the review is in itself, equally as terrible as Waxx purported his novel to be. Several of his friends, publishers, and colleagues call to weigh in on the review and to assure Cubby that being reviewed by Waxx is a very good thing, due to his good standing with the most respected and revered people in the literary world and that a negative review was in fact, better than no review at all. His wife Penny on the other hand merely tells him to "let it go" and he does. That evening he and his wife go out to a fancy dinner leaving Milo and Lassie in the care of forceful and highly capable Vivian Norbury. While at the restaurant Roxie, while Penny is indisposed in the restroom, the owner/maitre'd of the restaurant approaches Cubby to discuss his review. He informs Cubby, that the elusive Waxx is a patron at that very restaurant and that he in fact has a reservation for lunch the following day at 12:30. Cubby does not inform his wife of this conversation but rather returns home to spend a peaceful evening with his family.
Click here to see the rest of this review
The following day, after shopping for electronics with his son, Milo and Cubby enjoy a meal at Roxie and are able to see Waxx in person. Cubby who has no intention of approaching the critic merely observes him until he loses interest and continues enjoying his meal with his son. Prior to leaving the restaurant, Milo and Cubby go to the restroom where Cubby assists his son in relieving himself by holding him up at the urinal. While Milo is emptying his young bladder, the bathroom stall opens to reveal Shearman Waxx. Cubby makes the mistake of turning around while Milo is still in mid-stream and while he doesn't pee on Waxx he does make a mess on the floor. Cubby apologizes profusely while Waxx wahses his hands, but to no avail. Waxx continues about his way as though he were alone in the restroom, pausing just long enough before exiting, to affix Cubby with his cold maroon-eyed stare and to utter one word "Doom". Cubby and Milo clean up the mess and then return home where Cubby tells his wife about their strange encounter. Neither thinks much of it and continue about their lives as usual. Cubby retreats to his study to read a book, while his wife, a writer of children's stories continues with her latest project, and Milo continues tinkering with a slew of mysterious electrical devices that he is attempting to engineer into a time machine.
Cubby, awakening in his study from a nap opens his eyes to see Shearman Waxx walking through his hallway. Thinking that he is still in the throes of a particularly vivid dream, Cubby gets up and follows him as Waxx walks carelessly through his home. Unsure if his eyes are deceiving him or not, Cubby decides to ensure that his wife and child are safe before pursuing Waxx further, and gathers them into the living room, instructing his wife to lock and bar the door after his departure. Once this is done, he continues downstairs to where Waxx is continuing to traverse the house as calmly and unhurriedly as though it were a public plaza. As he goes from room to room trying to pinpoint Waxx's location he smells something burning and hurries to the kitchen where he discovers a framed photograph of him and his family smoldering in the toaster over. He removes it with a sense of foreboding, and wondering just how badly he and Milo offended Waxx at the restaurant restroom. At this point, Cubby tells his wife of the encounter with Waxx at the restaurant and the two discuss whether or not they should call the police. They decide against it, believing the best course of action to be to move on. That night however, Cubby makes sure to lock all the doors and windows and to activate the alarm system before retiring for bed.
As he lays in bed with his wife that night, Cubby awakes with a distinct feeling of unease. He reaches for the flashlight that he always keeps next to his bed to find it missing. The clock radio next to his bed is also black as is the alarm system security pag, reflecting no reassuring light indicating that the alarm is armed. Surmising that Waxx must be somewhere in the room, Cubby rolls silently out of bed and begins to slowly traverse the edges of the room hoping to catch Waxx unawares. In the dark however, he hears Waxx's voice clearly say again "doom" and he continues towards the voice. When he thinks that he may have Waxx in his grasp, he is felled by a sharp and powerful electric shock that brings him convulsing to the ground. Twitching he hears his wife awaken and call his name, and hears her too being subjected to the pain of being Tasered. Waxx proceeds to Taser him another five times and his wife once more before exiting the room as quietly and as quickly as he had entered.
After recovering from the shock (pun not intended) of finding Waxx hiding in the shadows of their bedroom, the couple runs to check on Milo and Lassie to find him soundly asleep with Lassie comfortably curled up on his bed. Deeming sleep an impossibility, the two dress and retire to the kitchen to discuss what had just happened and to decide what the next plan of action will be. After exhausting the topic of Waxx's insanity, Cubby retires to his his study where he receives a phone call from an author with whom he'd corresponded years earlier through post only. The author, John Clitherow, told Cubby that he read Waxx's review and was calling to warn him that the Greenwich family was in serious danger. He told Cubby that Waxx had murdered his own parents, wife and child years previously and that the Greenwiches needed to run away and do it quickly. Something in Clitherow's voice convinced Cubby that he was telling the truth and he took the author's advice to heart immediately. He instructed Penny to pack luggage for the family because they needed to leave quickly and as she packed he attempted to re-establish contact with Clitherow which proved to be impossible. When he rejoined his wife, he found her loading their luggage into the back of the family SUV. He took over the loading while Penny ran inside to collect a few more things and when he feels as though she has been inside too long he follows her. As he searches for his wife, he hears a phone ringing in the closet where no phone should be. He opens it cautiously to find a phone attached to brick of what looks like clay bound with wires set for 11:57 pm. He calls for Penny and the family rushes to escape the house before whatever impending disaster may strike. They drive a few block away and stop to watch as their home explodes and is engulfed in flames. They continue to drive away deciding as they go that this situation is infinitely more serious than they had realized.
They decide to go to a friend's home, where they rest and regroup. Milo is tinkering with his electronics again while Penny takes a nap on the couch when gunfire begins to hit the house. Cubby overturns the sofa that his wife is laying on effectively shielding them both and awakening Penny. Milo however is sitting in at a table in full view of the floor to ceiling windows as well as to the sniper who is somewhere outside attempting to kill them. Lassie runs to Milo's aid and Cubby races to lower the shades in front of the windows giving the family a chance to escape. Penny leads them to a hidden panic room where they are able to exit the house and escape in their car. As they race away from the house, Cubby sees a strangely deformed man seated behind the wheel of a Maserati a few block away from the house. The couple decides that more evasive measures must be taken to ensure their safety and as they brainstorm, Milo comes up with an idea to get rid of their car. The family ditches the car at an abandoned strip mall and head to the home of Vivian Norbury, the widow of a retired ex-cop and forceful babysitter of prodigy Milo. There, they have dinner and discuss the severity of their situation. Vivian gives them her car and consents to research Waxx in depth to see what other information she may be able to dig up on him.
The family drives in their new car to the home of Penny's parents who are in the demolition business and are ardent survivalists. There they stay in the underground bunker of Clotilda and Grimbald Boom where they are gifted with a moment's respite before heading back on the road again. They are equipped with guns and ammunition and black market microchips and engineering devices for Milo before they embark on the next leg of their journey. The two continue on to explore other of Waxx's possible victims who they discovered through internet research at Vivian's house. As they travel, Cubby receives yet another phone call from John Clitherow, this time detailing the murders of his parents and the increasingly strange events leading up to the murders of his wife and children. At the end of this revelation, Cubby hears an odd noise and realizes that Clitherow is being murdered while he listens on the other end of the line. After he hears the telltale thump of a body hitting the floor a voice on the phone threatens that it is closing in on him and his family. Cubby promptly turns the phone off and throws it out of the window.
They arrive in a small town and Penny, Milo, and Lassie stay in a cheap motel while Cubby goes to visit Henry Casas, an artist who was a friend of now deceased author Thomas Landulf, who was accused of torturing and murdering his wife and daughter before setting himself on fire. Casas himself had been kidnapped and tortured after his own work as an artist had been negatively reviewed by someone named Russell, an alias of the selfsame Shearman Waxx. Casas's hands, tongue, and vocal cords had been removed and his eyes blinded by acid, but he was still able to paint using his feet and his mother's help. He was able to show Cubby a picture of one of his captors and it proves to be the deformed face of the man in the Maserati. After this visit, the Greenwiches decide to go and investigate the home of Landulf to search for any clues that may have been left behind. There they find the cop who had worked the case prior to being forcibly retired and as they begin to launch into their own explanation of the horrors that they endured as a family, Waxx's men appear at the door. Armed with guns and hiding in a den, Cubby listens to the officer discussing his presence in the home of a suspected murderer without paying rent. The two men at the door force their way into the house and proceed to enter the den where Cubby is hiding. Cubby draws his own weapon believing that the men will release the officer but instead witnesses the man getting shot in the head. Luckily Penny steps in and kills one of the men while Cubby kills the other. As they prepare to leave the home and are erasing all signs of their visit, Waxx and a slew of other men pull up outside. The family hides in the basement as is able to hear pertinent information from Waxx about his plans to hunt them down and eradicate them. This information proves crucial as it allows the family to take a wise and life-saving next step.
After leaving Landulf's house, Cubby liberates a car from the neighborhood and he and Penny, having collected the ids of the two men that they killed return with Milo to their car to retrieve their luggage and Lassie. Cubby puts his wife, child, and dog into the trunk of the car so that he would be less suspicious and recognizable as he drives out of the town. As he approaches the roadblocks that he overheard Waxx and his men discussing earlier, he realizes that Lassie has somehow escaped the trunk of the car and is now sitting in the backseat of the car. Before he has time to contemplate how this happened, he sees an approaching SUV. Instead of it just driving past, it slows down and the driver gives him a thumbs up before continuing on down the street. However, the car turns around to follow him and right before it catches up to him to apprehend him, the car crashes leaving the two occupants almost undoubtedly dead. Cubby proceeds to the roadblocks and passes through them unstopped and unharmed. As he drives, he sees Shearman Waxx parked at the side of the road and decides to apprehend him. He gets Penny and Milo out of the trunk and the three apprehend Waxx in his car. They chain him into the trunk and drive back towards his home. While in the car, they ask Milo how Lassie managed to escape the trunk and he informs them that during one of his many experiments he in fact invented a teleportation vest that seemed to have had residual effects on the dog allowing her to teleport. Milo, who had previously given both of his parents altered salt shakers, wouldn't tell them exactly what they did but said that they were important and must not be lost.
The family arrived at Waxx's home and decided to leave him chained in the trunk of the car while they went inside to determine what his dastardly plan for them was. Inside, they encountered a woman who turned out to be Waxx's mother. She told them that they worked for an agency whose job it was to shape and perfect culture in whatever was necessary. While they discussed exactly what that meant, the deformed man from the Maserati appeared and was sent outside to check on Waxx's well-being. When he returned, he had a bloody knife in hand and confessed to killing Waxx who turned out to be his father. Waxx's mother shoots him and then shoots Cubby in the chest. Instead of dying however, cubby on the floor in a pool of his own blood sees the scene running backwards, as though someone rewinded the moment he was shot. This time, he was prepared for Waxx's mother to shoot him and he and Penny shoot her instead. Milo admits that his altered salt shakers were responsible for the miracle.
The family escapes to an unknown location where they have changed their names and live in anonymity and peace. They know that the agency is still out there and undoubtedly still searching for them, but they quiet and peaceful lives, prepared for the worst but hoping for the best.
Best part of story, including ending:
Koontz inserts what is undoubtedly some of his own commentary on modern society under the guise of Cubby's internal musings and they are witty, intelligent, and completely well founded. These witticisms paired with incredibly snappy dialogue and humorous little asides make this novel an intense and still fun read.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was in the beginning of the book when Penny and Cubby are at dinner. Their conversation is so real and believable. It is impeccably written, giving the reader the feeling that these are two people who are not only lovers but are also best friends, companions, and confidants.
Opinion about the main character:
There is almost nothing to dislike about Cubby, but if I had to choose one thing it would be that right before shooting the intruder at Landulf's, he hesitates and freezes. I would have like to see him be a man of action although I am certain that had I been in that situation I would have acted the same.