With more than 100 novels published and a reported 450 million novels sold, is it any wonder that Dean Koontz is one of the most popular writers of all time?
Koontz is currently listed at #2 overall in Amazon’s Author Rank, behind only the inimitable J.K. Rowling.
But if you’re new to Koontz’s work, where do you start?
Koontz’s books are primarily thrillers, but commonly incorporate elements of horror, science fiction and mystery.
And like Stephen King, Koontz seems to have only gotten better with age. Much of his recent work – including short stories – rank among his best.
While Koontz published his first novel way back in 1968, he has truly been at the height of his powers in the 21st century.
Here’s our list of Koontz’ best books according to our staff of reviewers and other associates.
Check back often, as we’ll update and expand this list over over time.
The Night Window
A group of lecherous evil-doers called the Techno Arcadians have been using the latest tech to turn people into robots and sex slaves. Disgraced ex-FBI agent Jane Hawk, Koontz’s best character ever, stands in their way.
To be on the safe side, Jane stashes her son, Travis, in Arizona. As you might guess, the move doesn’t guarantee his safety. To go after the Techno Arcadians, Jane teams up with retired FBI agent Vikram Rangnekar, who’s a brilliant hacker. Prepare for lots of cyberspeak and some great banter in general.
Meanwhile, there’s a filmmaker hunted for sport in Colorado by an immoral billionaire, and lots of personal grievances and vendettas to be settled among all the primary characters. There’s a lot going in on the Night Window, but the book remains a fast-paced read nevertheless.
Jane’s interplay with Vikram is just plain fun, and readers will get a kick out of all the devices Koontz dreams up. In general, most “technothrillers” shouldn’t be called that, because every work of contemporary fiction features a lot of technology. In this case, however, the title is apt.
Audiobook fans will appreciate Elisabeth Rodgers’ narration, which provides some sparkle without going too overboard with character voices.
Across the land, in the company of mortals and spirits alike, he has known kindness and cruelty, felt love and loss, saved lives and taken them—as he’s borne witness to humanity’s greatest good and darkest evil.
Again and again, he has gone where he must and done what he had to do—for better or worse—with his courage and devotion sorely tested, and his soul forever changed. Every triumph has been hard won. Each sacrifice has taken its toll.
Now, whatever destiny drives him has finally steered his steps home, where those he cares for most surround him, the memory of his tragically lost true love haunts him, and one last challenge—vast and dreadful—awaits him.
For Odd Thomas, born to serve a purpose far greater than himself, the wandering is done. Only the reckoning remains.
The Crooked Staircase
In Koontz’s latest outing, his fierce heroine Jane Hawk picks up right where she left off in The Whispering Room. That’s great news for Koontz completionists, but this won’t be a great entry point for anyone not already invested in the series. With that said, this is yet another excellent thriller, and that goes double for the series as a whole.
As Jane is alive, she’ll never cease her war against the terrifying conspiracy that threatens free will for millions. Battling the strange epidemic of murder-suicides that claimed Jane’s husband, and is escalating across the country, has made the rogue FBI agent a wanted fugitive, relentlessly hunted not only by the government but by the secret cabal behind the plot. Deploying every resource their malign nexus of power and technology commands, Jane’s enemies are determined to see her dead . . . or make her wish she was.
Jane’s ruthless pursuers can’t stop her from drawing a bead on her prey: a cunning man with connections in high places, a twisted soul of unspeakable depths with an army of professional killers on call. Propelled by her righteous fury and implacable insistence on justice, Jane will make her way from southern Southern California to the snow-swept slopes of Lake Tahoe to confront head-on the lethal forces arrayed against her. But nothing can prepare her for the chilling truth that awaits when she descends the crooked staircase to the dark and dreadful place where her long nightmare was born.
Past midnight, Chyna Shepard, twenty-six, gazes out a moonlit window, unable to sleep on her first night in the Napa Valley home of her best friend’s family.
Instinct proves reliable. A murderous sociopath, Edgler Foreman Vess, has entered the house, intent on killing everyone inside. A self-proclaimed “homicidal adventurer,” Vess lives only to satisfy all appetites as they arise, to immerse himself in sensation, to live without fear, remorse, or limits, to live with intensity.
Chyna is trapped in his deadly orbit.
Chyna is a survivor, toughened by a lifelong struggle for safety and self-respect.
Now she will be tested as never before. At first her sole aim is to get out alive—until, by chance, she learns the identity of Vess’s next intended victim, a faraway innocent only she can save.
Driven by a newly discovered thirst for meaning beyond mere self-preservation, Chyna musters every inner resource she has to save an endangered girl . . . as moment by moment, the terrifying threat of Edgler Foreman Vess intensifies.
His best friend, also a gifted musician, who will share his journey into destiny.
His remarkable family, tested by the extremes of evil and bound by the depths of love . . . on a collision course with a band of killers about to unleash anarchy.
And two unlikely allies, an everyday hero tempered by the past and a woman of mystery who holds the key to the future.
These are the people of The City, a place where enchantment and malice entwine, courage and honor are found in the most unexpected quarters, and the way forward lies buried deep inside the heart.
Brilliantly illumined by magic dark and light, their unforgettable story is a riveting, soul-stirring saga that speaks to everyone, a major milestone in Koontz’s career, and a dazzling realization of the evergreen dreams we all share.
Koontz tells the story of a community cut off from a world under siege, and the terrifying battle for survival waged by a young couple and their neighbors as familiar streets become fog-shrouded death traps.
On the morning that will mark the end of the world they have known, Molly and Niel Sloan awaken to the drumbeat of rain on their roof. It has haunted their sleep, invaded their dreams, and now they rise to find a luminous silvery downpour drenching their small California mountain town. A strange scent hangs faintly in the air, and the young couple cannot shake the sense of something wrong.
As hours pass and the rain continues to fall, Molly and Niel listen to disturbing news of extreme weather phenomena across the globe. Before evening, their little town loses television and radio reception. Then telephone and the Internet are gone. With the ceaseless rain now comes an obscuring fog that transforms the once-friendly village into a ghostly labyrinth. By nightfall the Sloans have gathered with some of their neighbors to deal with community damage…but also because they feel the need to band together against some unknown threat, some enemy they cannot identify or even imagine.
In the night, strange noises arise, and at a distance, in the rain and the mist, mysterious lights are seen drifting among the trees. The rain diminishes with the dawn, but a moody gray-purple twilight prevails. Soon Molly, Niel, and their small band of friends will be forced to draw on reserves of strength, courage, and humanity they never knew they had. For within the misty gloom they will encounter something that reveals in a terrifying instant what is happening to their world—something that is hunting them with ruthless efficiency.
Photographing the Dead
Koontz’s foray into short-form fiction yields another gold nugget for both fans and newcomers.
Late last year, legendary author Dean Koontz dropped six books in the new “Nameless” short story series. Among the best is Photographing the Dead, which packs a morality story about karmic justice in a fast-moving, action-packed tale that will immediately hook newcomers.
A self-styled artist is getting away with murder in Death Valley. If all goes well, so will Nameless. In part two of the series, the relentless avenger is haunted by nightmares of the past and visions of what’s to come.
Palmer Oxenwald’s hunting ground is the Mojave wasteland. His victims are random tourists and hikers. His trophies are cherished photographs of the damage he’s done. His greatest threat is Nameless. Two men with one thing in common: memories of the dead. For a psychopath like Palmer, they’re a clear rush in black and white. For Nameless, they’re visions of violence buried and erased. But for how long?
Regardless of format, this is Koontz at his most observant and thoughtful. The audiobook version, brilliantly narrated by Edoardo Ballerini, the length is just about long enough for an average commute.
In the Heart of the Fire
In a departure not only for Koontz but also for the publishing industry, the legendary author dropped six books in the “Nameless” series. In the audiobook version, narrated by Edoardo Ballerini, the length is just about long enough for an average commute. The first story in the series creeps up on you, starting as casual observance before dropping in to pack a serious punch.
In the story, a bloodthirsty sheriff is terrorizing a small Texas town where justice has been buried with his victims. Until Nameless arrives – a vigilante whose past is a mystery and whose future is written in blood.
Anyone who crosses Sheriff Russell Soakes is dead, missing, or warned. One of them is a single mother trying to protect her children but bracing herself for the worst. Nameless fears the outcome. He’s seen it in his visions. Now it’s time to teach the depraved Soakes a lesson in fear. But in turning predators into prey, will Nameless unearth a few secrets of his own?
While Edoardo Ballerini’s narrative style feels unemotional and distant given the intense subject matter, it also allows Koontz’ prose to shine. Highly recommended.