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One of the things you can say about Dean Koontz is that he is a solid writer. Regardless of the subject matter he will invariably turn in an easily read piece of work. Whilst he may aspire to be Stephen King, in many respects he reminds me more of Harold Robbins, not for the content of their books, but for the fact that both authors seem to be content to play in a small sand box, which no doubt gains them an audience and an income which most of us can only envy. I may be wrong but I suspect that Koontz will be an author who has success in his lifetime which will fade to obscurity on his death.
Ashley Bell (2015. 560 pages) is the new thriller from Koontz. It tells the story of Bibi Blaire who is told that she only has a year to live, only to confound her doctors by getting better. Not content to accept this as anything from divine intervention or a human mistake, Bibi determines that she has been saved so that she can save another, in this case Ashley Bell. Well that’s what a mysterious golden retriever and a dodgy masseuse will get you.
Bibi’s main difficulty is that she has no idea who Ashley Bell is or how to find her, overall it’s quite a slow book. Partially because Koontz keeps jumping the narrative back by a factor of twelve years, but also because the book has an overabundance of short, three to four page chapters, with no real logic as to why this has to be, except it is a part of Koontz style of writing. It takes nearly one hundred and fifty pages of the book before we even get to hear about Ashley Bell, let alone find and save her.
To call the book a thriller is probably misleading; it is more of a mystery story and as such requires the reader to suspend a certain level of disbelief. There are coincidences and, like many books in this genre, some which are conveniently shoehorned into the story to push forward the plot. After being told that she must save Ashley Bell the book turns into a bit of a road book, with Bibi journeying across America, inexplicably running into some of the most interesting and crazy characters out there, which is the real reason for the book existence.
Although it was a little confusing at times and the short chapters made me feel that the story was either written to be read on the way to work or by someone of limited attention span, nevertheless it is what it is, an easy read from Kootz which you will probably enjoy reading once but are unlikely to return to.