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BOOK REVIEW: Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz

| 7 January 2016 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz

Harper Collins
January 2016
Paperback, $29.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell


Bibi Blair is a fierce, funny, dauntless young woman – whose doctor says she has one year to live.
She replies, “We’ll see.”

Suddenly a tingling filled the hand, the arm, not that vibratile numbness that followed a sharp blow to the elbow, but a crawling sensation, as if ants were swarming through flesh and bone. As she rolled her chair away from the desk and got to her feet, the tingling spread through the entire left side of her body, from scalp to foot.

Her sudden recovery is a medical miracle.

Bibi needed more than a mere promise. At twenty-two, she had big dreams, though she didn’t call them dreams, because dreams were wish-upon-a-star fantasies that rarely came true. Consequently, she called them expectations. She had great expectations, and she could see the means by which she would surely fulfill them.

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

When Calida pulled the drawstring on the small flannel bag and spilled the familiar lettered tiles onto the dinette table, she said, “My mother devised and perfected the occult art of Scrabblemancy.”
Bibi almost laughed, but then she remembered the brutal murder and dismemberment that could be researched online.

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.

In movies, the silence-tortured character asked, Is someone there? Who’s there? Hello? What do you want? The answer to that last question would always be a variation of Terezin’s response when Bibi, on the phone, had inquired of him what he wanted from her: Only to kill you. Therefore, silence should be met with silence – and with well-considered action.

A powerful man wants Bibi dead. He’s tapped the phones of her loved ones, sent assassins to wait for her in all of the places she might be expected to go, and threatened to kill anyone she reaches out to. On top of this, he’s the one holding Ashley Bell captive, and he makes it very clear that her days, too, are numbered.


The first almost 120 pages of this book are spent exploring the first two lines of the blurb. That’s 120 pages of Bibi realising something is wrong, going for medical tests, having flash-backs, random snippets from her fiance who is a Navy SEAL and is on a blackout mission, and back again to the hospital.

And let me tell you, those 120 pages, the introductory pages of this novel, were the slowest of the lot. So incredibly slow that, until I went back and checked my updates, I honestly thought that this section was 200+ pages long.

When you reach the 180-220 page mark, you’ll feel like the floor has been pulled out from under you, and you’ll be casting around for what could possibly happen next.

This is where the book seems to morph into something else.
This is where you will find yourself unable to put the book down in favour of bed.
This is where stuff starts to actually happen.

But by 250-300, you’ll likely have worked out the “twist”, or at the very least have a strong inkling.

The last two-thirds of this book could quite possibly be a 7 out of 10 – despite predictability, a bit of a rubbish ending, and an omnipresent narrative style that makes it hard to grow attached to any of the characters – but the overall rating is pulled down by the opening third, which almost made this reviewer give up on the book entirely.

Mr. Koontz can write, that’s for sure, but sometimes he goes to such lengths to keep the reader guessing that it becomes transparent, and one eventually pulls a muscle from all the eye-rolling they’ve been doing.


Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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