By Ekta R. Garg
December 9, 2015
Genre: Supernatural thriller
Rated: Bookmark it!
A young woman receives a grim prognosis from a cancer specialist. The day after her initial diagnosis the woman seems to be healed. What she doesn’t realize, however, is that the mysterious appearance and remission of the tumor is just the beginning of a harrowing nightmare. Veteran author Dean Koontz offers readers a well-balanced turn of events in the freaky but ultimately fun novel Ashley Bell.
California girl and novelist Bibi Blair is the daughter of two surfer parents who have taught her to take life as it comes. So when she begins experiencing weird symptoms, Bibi doesn’t get rattled. She lets her mother take her to the emergency room, where she gets admitted and eventually the diagnosis: gliomatosis cerebri. Namely, a tumor that invades the brain and spreads. Worse, the rare nature of the tumor means limited treatment options. The doctor is almost apologetic when he tells Bibi’s parents that she has, at most, a year to live.
Her parents, Nancy and Murph, dissolve in grief, but Bibi decides she will fight the cancer. She believes she can find the part of her that once was healthy and rouse it enough to push the cancer so far away it’ll never come back. The night of her diagnosis, Bibi undergoes a strange experience. The next morning her symptoms disappear.
The healthcare staff at the hospital remains cautious, but Bibi knows the cancer has retreated. Nancy and Murph want Bibi to celebrate and offer her a “glad you’re okay” present just kooky enough to make sense in their world: a séance. Bibi goes to the séance with reluctance, if only to indulge her parents.
The séance doesn’t just put Bibi in touch with the dead, however. It puts her smack dab in the middle of some sort of vengeful mission. Someone or something has decided to attack the physical world, and the target is a young woman named Ashley Bell.
Who is Ashley? Why would the spirits after Ashley make their intentions known to Bibi? She doesn’t know, but soon enough events convince Bibi that she is the one and only hope Ashley has to stay alive. Along the way disturbing clues lead Bibi to believe that in saving Ashley, she may also end up saving a vital part of herself.
Despite Dean Koontz’s renown, this reviewer had never read a book by him before this. While the supernatural thriller genre isn’t my first choice, I found that Ashley Bell encompassed all the right elements for a compelling book. Koontz clearly either has inhabited the surfing world himself at some point or spent a great deal of time researching it on the book. Readers will sense the great care he employs in his use of surfing euphemisms and lingo, and the entire story makes sense with the surfing community as its backdrop.
Koontz also employs some fantastic description, particularly where it sets the mood. Readers should watch for the many ways he juxtaposes the image of sunny Southern California with the darker world Bibi enters in order to save Ashley. For those new to Koontz’s writing, as I was, when he makes his big reveal as to the nature of Bibi’s quest, it make take a few pages to readjust the mind but at the end readers will flip or scroll pages as fast as possible to find out how it all ends. And like every great thriller, the last few paragraphs will leave readers wanting more.
I recommend readers Bookmark Ashley Bell.
(I received a review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)