I received this e-Arc from NetGalley and Bantam Books in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: December 8th, 2015
Synopsis: At twenty-two, Bibi Blair’s doctors tell her that she’s dying. Two days later, she’s impossibly cured. Fierce, funny, dauntless, she becomes obsessed with the idea that she was spared because she is meant to save someone else. Someone named Ashley Bell. This proves to be a dangerous idea. Searching for Ashley Bell, ricocheting through a southern California landscape that proves strange and malevolent in the extreme, Bibi is plunged into a world of crime and conspiracy, following a trail of mysteries that become more sinister and tangled with every twisting turn.
Dean Koontz is one of my favorite authors after Stephen King and some of his books have been pure genius such as: Intensity, Odd Thomas, Fear Nothing, and Watchers. Ashley Bell shows flashes of this brilliance, but due to a rambling and convoluted story and more than one plot hole, it ultimately winds up being a disappointment.
I’m going to start with the positives, and one of those is protagonist Bibi Blair. When told she has a rare and fatal brain tumor, and that she only has a few months to live, she responds, “We’ll see.” That same night she suffers a devastating seizure. She wakes briefly to see a man whose face is hidden, who’s accompanied by a beautiful Golden Retriever. The dog licks her hand and when she awakens fully the next morning she intuitively knows the tumor is gone. Alas, this miracle does not come without a price. With the help of a medium, Bibi discovers her life has been spared so she can save a mysterious girl named Ashley Bell. As she sets off on her quest she soon realizes she must battle an evil and faceless enemy who will do anything to thwart her.
Bibi is a wonderful character to root for. She’s smart, funny, stubborn, and will not let anything or anyone get in the way of her completing her mission. As she tries desperately to find and save Ashley Bell, Bibi discovers that her past, one she’s gone to great lengths to forget, is somehow tied to this mystery. Although she’s fearful of unlocking those memories, in the end she does so knowing that it’s the only way to save this young girl. Everything she does, she does alone because she refuses to put the people she loves in danger. This makes for a very lonely odyssey.
Equally likable are her Navy Seal fiancé Paxton, and her best friend Pogo, who in the end do wind up figuring out what is going on and do their best to help. In comparison, Bibi’s parents unfortunately come across as weak and ineffective which is too bad because they’re also a big part of the book.
Ashley Bell is a huge book at almost 600 pages and 130 chapters and I think this is part of the problem. The author goes on these long disjointed rambles that seriously could have done with a good editing. The story also moves back and forth between Bibi’s childhood and the present which further adds an almost disjointed feeling. There are numerous scenes where characters are doing one thing, only to be interrupted with the addition of new scenes. I wound up having to go back and forth between pages because I was getting confused, and doing this on a Kindle is no easy task. There are also numerous plot holes that are never filled in which left me feeling frustrated at the end of the book. Even the two endings detailing the conclusion of Bibi’s quest and what happens to the villain are unsatisfying and left me confused as to what exactly the author was trying to accomplish.
While not one of his best works, Ashley Bell still shows at times what makes Dean Koontz such a successful author. For the most part his characters are believable and ones you’ll become emotionally invested in. The story, while too long and overwrought, still shows that creativity and imagination which made me fall in love with his writing decades ago. It’s fast paced and there are many “gotcha” moments which kept me turning the pages. It’s because of this that I’ve given it as high a rating as I did. As far as recommending it goes, I honestly don’t know what to say, except that if you’re already a fan of Dean Koontz, you probably won’t want to miss this despite it’s drawbacks. If you’re new to his writing, I suggest you start with some of his earlier books before you tackle this one.