Published January 9, 2009

I’ve been a huge Dean Koontz fan since the early 1980s. He is, in fact, my second favorite author — Steve King still gets the number one spot — so it distresses me to have to give such a middling review of his latest book.
Your Heart Belongs To Me
Perhaps the jacket copy is the best synopsis of this strange novel:

From the #1 New York Times bestselling master of suspense comes a riveting thriller that probes the deepest terrors of the human psyche—and the ineffable mystery of what truly makes us who we are. Here a brilliant young man finds himself fighting for his very existence in a battle that starts with the most frightening words of all

At thirty-four, Internet entrepreneur Ryan Perry seemed to have the world in his pocket—until the first troubling symptoms appeared out of nowhere. Within days, he’s diagnosed with incurable cardiomyopathy and finds himself on the waiting list for a heart transplant; it’s his only hope, and it’s dwindling fast. Ryan is about to lose it all his health, his girlfriend Samantha, and his life.

One year later, Ryan has never felt better. Business is good and he hopes to renew his relationship with Samantha. Then the unmarked gifts begin to appear—a box of Valentine candy hearts, a heart pendant. Most disturbing of all, a graphic heart surgery video and the chilling message: Your heart belongs to me.

In a heartbeat, the medical miracle that gave Ryan a second chance at life is about to become a curse worse than death. For Ryan is being stalked by a mysterious woman who feels entitled to everything he has. She’s the spitting image of the twenty-six-year-old donor of the heart beating steadily in Ryan’s own chest.

And she’s come to take it back.

From that description, I thought the book sounded like a thriller version of the film (né, chick flick, although it’s a good chick flick) Return To Me. After reading it, that description is not accurate. Unlike most of Koontz work, it took me awhile to get into this one. Once it did take off, 30 or so pages in, it gripped me more than many of his recent novels (The Good Guy, Velocity, The Husband … all have left me disappointed). By the last third, the problems started to mount: lots of loose ends, confusing plot points, and a less-than-satisfying conclusion.

That said, the book has haunted me a bit. Things I didn’t get upon turning the last page have occurred to me organically. I don’t want to give too much away, but at one major point when a suitable heart donor cannot be found (Ryan’s heart transplant does not happen until almost the halfway point of the story), our protagonist uses his plentiful resources to move things along. Rather than trusting God in this dire situation, as his girlfriend urges him to do, Ryan takes matters into his own hands, pulls some strings and manipulates the situation. Are there consequences to this? You have to ask?

All in all, this was a mixed bag (… to say the least: reader reviews on Amazon extend literally from LOVED IT to HATED IT). I have come to expect great things from this modern-day Master of Suspense (and he is), but lately his efforts have bordered on self-parody. Early classics like Watchers, Strangers, Lightning, and Intensity have yet to be equalled in this new millennium — although I still keep hoping. All right, The Face and One Door Away From Heaven were extremely good. I may go back and review some of those early books — many of which I’ve read multiple times — just to let unlearned readers in on some of the most gripping, suspenseful, and emotionally satisfying fiction I’ve ever read.

Your Heart Belongs To Me has its moments but, sadly, cannot compare.