Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz
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 astonishes medical science.
An enigmatic woman convinces Bibi that she escaped death so that she can save someone else. Someone named Ashley Bell.
But save her from what, from whom? And who is Ashley Bell? Where is she?
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.
Here is an eloquent, riveting, brilliantly paced story with an exhilarating heroine and a twisting, ingenious plot filled with staggering surprises. Ashley Bell is a new milestone in literary suspense from the long-acclaimed master.
Dean Koontz is an immensely talented writer. Intricate plotting and a master at creating mood and suspense. On top of that, he has a gift for description that is beautiful and lyrical. He can make you pause and reread or listen again to some amazing prose.
In Ashley Bell, he has created a fascinating protagonist, Bibi Blair. Strong, gifted, and with an indomitable will. Upon a spontaneous recovery from terminal cancer, she is informed that the price for her cure is to save someone named Ashley Bell. Reluctantly coming to believe the truth of this, she begins a quest that takes her deeper and deeper into a surreal adventure. Meanwhile, her fiance, fighting in a war half a world away gets a message that Bibi needs to be saved and comes home to begin a parallel quest to Bibi’s own.
There is a lot to like in Ashley Bell. Koontz creates an eerie mood that makes you unsettled throughout. A larger than life antagonist to oppose Bibi and a well-defined and interesting supporting cast, from Bibi’s surfer parents, her enigmatic grandfather and laid-back but fiercely loyal best friend Pogo to her former professor Solange St. Croix (the character names in this book are also a blast) as well as several others. Among the obstacles Bibi has to overcome are some of her own memories which have been powerfully blocked.
Two things work against this being a great book. First, the pace was far too slow. As wonderfully evocative as the language is, it gets in the way of the storytelling sometimes. The pace does pick up in the last quarter of the book, but it took a loooong time to get there. The second thing that I found disappointing was that one of the major surprises was forecast from quite a ways ahead and robbed it of a lot of its punch.
In spite of some flaws, Ashley Bell is a memorable and enjoyable book. Beautiful language, memorable characters and wonderful atmosphere. All of these things will stick with you for a while. Long-time Koontz fans will not want to miss it and there is plenty to like for new fans.
I listened to the audio version and Suzy Jackson did an outstanding job of narration. Her voice of main character Bibi perfectly captured how I pictured her and the narration of other characters was distinctive and easy to differentiate. I love a narrator who enhances the story and doesn’t get in the way of it. Recommended read (listen).
I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.