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Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz

December 12, 2015

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Dean Koontz comes the must-read thriller of the year, perfect for readers of dark psychological suspense and modern classics of mystery and adventure.

Bibi Blair is a fierce, funny, dauntless young woman – whose doctor says she has one year to live.

She replies, ‘We’ll see.’

Her sudden recovery is a medical miracle.

An enigmatic woman convinces Bibi that she escaped death so that she can save someone else. Someone named Ashley Bell.

But who is Ashley Bell? And what exactly does she need saving from?

Bibi’s obsession with finding Ashley sends her on the run from threats both mystical and worldly, including a rich and charismatic cult leader with terrifying ambitions.

 

I like Dean Koontz writing, especially the Odd books.  It’s  difficult to write about the books, though, partly because the plots are, well, fantastical but also because you either get them or you don’t.  Certainly, it  wouldn’t do to summarise the plot for fear of offering up way too many spoilers.
There are people I know who can’t bear the overt religious symbolism in his writing, though that’s never especially got in the way for me.

Koontz lives and writes of the world between reality and fantasy, between dark horror and bright light. In Ashley Bell, he follows this same pattern much as you would expect, though with a slightly lighter touch than in some of his works. There is, of course, tension and malevolence, but it is threaded through with a gentler exploration of self-awareness and imagination.

There is humour and some interesting playing with names that I enjoyed, including a very nice tribute to Patricia Highsmith, but overall, this is not a satisfying book.

I got quite caught up in the beginning, where Bibi Blair is visited by death, aged 22. And I enjoyed learning about her early life and inclinations and the people she knew and how her experiences had led her to become a published writer. Koontz plays with themes of writers and writing throughout the book – there are some rather nice observations on the frustrations of writers whose characters won’t behave the way the writer wants them to, and some rather lyrical writing.

This is, ultimately, a story about love and redemption and the power of story telling and imagination. I liked some of the characters and their relationship to and love for love for Bibi.

But it’s weakness lies in in the plot construction and the device that is ultimately quite unsatisfying that explains what has been going on in Bibi’s world.

Not his best book, though I remain an admirer.

Ashley Bell is published by HarperCollins on 14 January 2016
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From → Horror, Thriller

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