The Animal Hour

Animal Hour by Andrew KlavanOddly unrecognized one morning by the people who used to know her, Nancy Kincaid wanders the city streets with only one thing on her mind: a voice that whispers in her ear that someone will be murdered that night. Reprint.

Maneuvering the plot of his latest urban thriller with the irresistible skill of a three-card monte expert, Klavan leaves his mesmerized readers the winners. In New York City on Halloween morning, recent college graduate Nancy Kincaid arrives at the office where she works for an ambitious city pol. But her co-workers don’t recognize her; she finds a gun in her purse and hears odd voices talking about a killing to take place that night, at 8 o’clock, the “animal hour.” She runs to a park, shoots a persistent panhandler, and evades the pursuing police in the tunnels of the subway. Meanwhile, we meet Oliver Perkins, an appealingly scruffy poet who is kind to old women and babies, and whose book of poems bears the title The Animal Hour. Oliver’s brother, Zach, a photographer for Downunder magazine, has disappeared; fearing Zach may be back on drugs, Oliver looks for him in old haunts but finds only the viciously mutilated, decapitated corpse of a young woman. Nancy’s increasing terrors–she escapes Bellevue and survives a drop from her parents’ Gramercy Park apartment with skills she didn’t know she had–are interwoven with Oliver’s growing anxieties and his encounters with the NYPD (with the FBI behind them). A cross between Rod Serling and James Ellroy, Klavan ( Don’t Say a Word ) spins a nonstop New York City horror tale whose 8 p.m. resolution, while leaving a few questions unanswered, satisfactorily caps the rapid-fire entertainment. BOMC and Time-Life Condensed Book Club selections; film rights to Tri-Star.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Klavan struts his Edgar award-winning stuff here. Even if the plot were not suspenseful and the characters not well developed, you’d keep reading because the hook is so good: the heroine believes she is Nancy Kincaid–but nobody who knows Nancy recognizes her, and Nancy’s mutilated body has just been found by the police. In addition, the woman who believes she is Nancy is hearing voices that tell her that she must kill a man at 8 o’clock, the “animal hour.” The viewpoint shifts from Nancy to Oliver Perkins (a poet and Nancy’s destined victim) to his brother Zach, druggie and suspected killer. Klavan immerses us in Nancy’s hallucinatory perceptions of a world already made strange by procession of freaks dressed for a Halloween parade. Recommended for popular collections. BOMC and Time-Life Condensed Book Club selections. – Marylaine Block, St. Ambrose Univ. Lib., Davenport, Ia.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Klavan’s specialty is noir psychothrillers that offer heart- thumping roller-coaster rides with plenty of twists and turns. This time, though, the author of Don’t Say a Word (1991), etc., jumps the tracks with an overwrought, jaggedly plotted tale of murder and madness. Several plotlines run a rapid course through the story to converge only at the end. The dominant, most compelling one is that of young Nancy Kincaid, who shows up for work on Halloween at her N.Y.C. law firm–to find that no one recognizes her. Nancy flees to the street, where she discovers a gun in her purse and hears voices saying that at 8:00 p.m., the “Animal Hour,” she must kill “him.” Cops chase her into a subway, where she stashes the gun; captured, she’s taken to Bellevue, escapes, retrieves the gun, looks up her mom, who also doesn’t know her, climbs onto a parapet, is attacked by a stone gargoyle that makes the noise “chiggachiggachiggachigga,” falls, gets up, and rushes into the West Village Halloween Parade looking for “him”–who turns out to be one Oliver Perkins. Meanwhile, in chapters that slash into Nancy’s tale, Oliver, a Village poet, learns that cops are hunting his brother, Zach, to have him explain the decapitated body left on his bed–the body of one Nancy Kincaid. Oliver frantically looks for Zach even as Zach, coming down from a mysterious drug and looking to even childhood scores with Oliver (very King-like italicized flashbacks here), sets Oliver up by decapitating another woman in a scene of gut-wrenching cruelty. Near book’s end, Oliver and Zach, united, rush into the swirling parade, meeting Nancy and their fates. If you blink, you’ll miss the reason–something about dirty pictures, blackmail, and drugs–that Klavan tags on to explain all this hysteria. A real trip–fast, scary, vertiginous, and confusing as hell. Best read with Dramamine. (Film Rights to Tri-Star) — Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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