Starred Review. A diabolic killer plays a harrowing game of cat and mouse with a reclusive bartender in Koontz's latest gripping suspense thriller. Billy Wiles, a 30-something bartender and former writer, is content with his solitary Napa County existence listening to `beer-based psychoanalysis` from tavern regulars; visiting his hospitalized, comatose fiancee, Barbara; and carving wood sculptures. But the simple life gets mighty complicated when he finds a note with a deadly, time-sensitive ultimatum: he must choose between the death of a young schoolteacher or an elderly humanitarian in six hours. Reluctant local sheriff Lanny Olsen dismisses it as a joke until a comely teacher is found strangled and another threatening note appears—offering even less time for Billy to decide the fate of two more people. Who would have guessed that one of those people would be Olsen? After his friend's murder, Billy finds that the cunning killer has gained access to every aspect of his life as the ultimatums grow increasingly more personal. Suppressing horrific childhood memories, Billy scrambles to bury grisly incriminating evidence the murderer has deviously planted. More gruesome deaths and shaky suspicions trap Billy right in the demented killer's lair for just the beginning of Koontz's serpentine showdown. Graphic, fast-paced action, well-developed characters and relentless, nail-biting scenes show Koontz at the top of his game.