All writers have to start somewhere and it is sometimes hard to believe (or remember) that an author who is now a household name used to be an unknown who struggled for recognition. I have read most of Dean Koontz’s books except for some of his early works. I was recently able to get my hands on some of these books and was happy to start on “Legacy of terror,” and early short novel Dean Koontz wrote under the pseudonym Deanna Dwyer.
Elaine Sherred has taken a job as a nurse to an old patriarch of a strange family after he suffers a stroke. She immediately feels uneasy upon arriving at the house and then the night comes and so does murder. The rumor is that the murder is committed by a hitchhiker but Elaine is not convinced, especially after learning of a Christmas Eve tragedy that struck the family fifteen years earlier. She suspects that insanity runs in the family. She is tempted to leave but a combination of financial need, a sense of duty, and a growing romance with one of her patient’s grandsons, Gordon, keeps her there. Now the question is whether or not she will survive while the body count grows.
“Legacy of terror” is a gothic romance that Koontz wrote as Deanna Dwyer early in his career and is one of several books and is probably the rarest of the Dwyer books. Koontz has stated that he wrote the book simply to meet a publisher’s deadline and pay the bills while he worked on projects that he really wanted to write. While this may be the driving factor that got him to write the story, it is surely a tongue-in-cheek answer as this is a well-written story that shows Koontz’s potential.
While this novel does not have the polish of Koontz’s later works, there is more than a hint of the talent that would blossom in the coming years. As a gothic romance, the novel does not have the fast-paced action that readers have come to expect from a Koontz thriller but the writing is crisp and concise and drives the story forward. The atmosphere and pacing of the book are reminiscent of the “Odd Thomas” novels although the supernatural aspects of “Legacy of terror” remain in the background and the tone of the novel is always serious. Koontz had yet to master his craft when he wrote “Legacy of Terror” but the promise was there and he crafted an entertaining novel. It is disappointing that these early works have not been reprinted so finding a copy can be difficult (and expensive) but the effort is well worth it for fans who can appreciate not only his works but Koontz’s growth as an author as well.