Ashley Bell: A Novel

Ashley Bell: A Novel

by Dean Koontz

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Overview

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY BOOKPAGEThe must-read thriller of the year, for readers of dark psychological suspense and modern classics of mystery and adventure. Don’t miss a special preview of Dean Koontz’s upcoming novel, The Silent Corner, in the back of the book.

The girl who said no to death.

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.

Praise for Ashley Bell

“A mind-bender filled with satisfying surprises.”People (book of the week)
 
“[With] lyrical writing and compelling characters . . . Koontz stands alone, and this novel is a prime example of literary suspense. . . . One of his best.”—Associated Press
 
“Grabs you on page one and keeps you enthralled with ever widening loops of intrigue, spine-tingling plot twists, absorbing characters and emotional involvement . . . extraordinary.”Bookreporter
 
“Heart-pounding and mind boggling . . . a rarity of a thriller—one that asks big questions about life and destiny while succeeding in creating [an] eerie sense of reality.”Shelf Awareness
 
“Strap in and hold on. . . . When a writer has managed to catch this kind of lightning in a bottle, every reader should experience the full jolt.”BookPage

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345545985
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/27/2016
Pages: 768
Sales rank: 142,175
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Dean Koontz, the author of many #1 New York Times bestsellers, lives in Southern California with his wife, Gerda, their golden retriever, Elsa, and the enduring spirit of their goldens, Trixie and Anna.

Hometown:

Newport Beach, California

Date of Birth:

July 9, 1945

Place of Birth:

Everett, Pennsylvania

Education:

B.S. (major in English), Shippensburg University, 1966

Read an Excerpt

1

The Girl Whose Mind Was Always Spinning

The year that Bibi Blair turned ten, which was twelve years before Death came calling on her, the sky was a grim vault of sorrow nearly every day from January through mid-March, and the angels cried down flood after flood upon Southern California. That was how she described it in her diary: a sorrowing sky, the days and nights washed by the grief of angels, though she didn’t speculate on the cause of their celestial distress.

Even then, she was writing short stories in addition to keeping a diary. That rainy winter, her simple narratives were all about a dog named Jasper whose cruel master had abandoned him on a storm-swept beach south of San Francisco. In each of those little fictions, Jasper, a gray-and-black mongrel, found a new home. But at the end of every tale, his haven proved impermanent for one reason or another. Determined to keep his spirits high, good Jasper traveled southward, hundreds of miles, in search of his forever home.

Bibi was a happy child, a stranger to melancholy; therefore, it seemed odd to her then—and for years after—that she should write multiple woeful episodes about a lonely, beleaguered mutt whose search for love was never more than briefly fulfilled. Understanding didn’t come to her until after her twenty-second birthday.

In one sense, everyone is a magpie. Bibi was one, but she didn’t know it then. Much time would pass before she recognized some truths that she had hidden away in her magpie heart.

The magpie, a bird with striking pied plumage and a long tail, often hoards objects that strike it as significant: buttons, bits of string, twists of ribbon, colorful beads, fragments of broken glass. Having concealed these treasures from the world, the magpie builds a new nest the following year and forgets where its trove is located; therefore, having hidden its collection even from itself, the bird starts a new one.

People hide truths about themselves from themselves. Such self-deception is a coping mechanism, and to one extent or another, most people begin deceiving themselves when they’re children.

That sodden winter when she was ten, Bibi lived with her parents in a small bungalow in Corona del Mar, a picturesque neighborhood of Newport Beach. Although they were just three blocks from the Pacific, they had no ocean view. The first Saturday in April, she was home alone, sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch of the quaint shingled house as warm rain streamed straight down through the palm trees and the ficuses, as it sizzled on the blacktop like hot oil on a griddle.

She was not a child who lazed around. Her mind remained always busy, spinning. She had a yellow lined tablet and a collection of pencils with which she was composing yet another installment in the saga of lonesome Jasper. Movement at the periphery of her vision caused her to look up, whereupon she discovered a soaked and weary dog ascending the sidewalk from the distant sea.

At ten, her sense of wonder had not been worn thin; and she sensed that a surprising turn of events was about to occur. In the grip of an agreeable expectation, she put down the tablet and the pencil, rose from the chair, and went to the head of the porch steps.

The dog looked nothing like the lonely mongrel in her stories. The bedraggled golden retriever halted where the bungalow walkway met the public sidewalk. Girl and beast regarded each other. She called to him, “Here, boy, here.” He needed to be coaxed, but eventually he approached the porch and climbed the steps. Bibi stooped to his level to peer into his eyes, which were as golden as his coat. “You stink.” The retriever yawned, as if his stinkiness was old news to him.

He wore a cracked and filthy leather collar. No license tag dangled from it. There wasn’t one of those name-and-phone-number plates riveted to it, which a responsible owner should have provided.

Bibi led the dog off the porch, through the rain, around the side of the house, into a brick-paved thirty-foot-square courtyard flanked by stuccoed privacy walls along the property lines to the east and west. To the south stood a two-car garage that opened onto an alleyway. Exterior steps rose to a small balcony and an apartment above the garage. Bibi avoided glancing up at those windows.

She told the retriever to wait on the back porch while she went into the house. He surprised her by being there when she returned with two beach towels, shampoo, a hair dryer, and a hairbrush. He ran with her across the courtyard, out of the rain and into the garage.

After she turned on the lights, after she took the stained and mud-crusted collar from around his neck, she saw something that she had not previously noticed. She considered dropping the collar in the garbage can, burying it under other trash, but she knew that would be wrong. Instead, she opened a drawer in the cabinet beside her father’s workbench, took one of several chamois cloths from his supply, and wrapped the collar in it.

A sound issued from the apartment overhead, a brief hard clatter. Startled, Bibi looked at the garage ceiling, where the open four-by-six joists were festooned with spider architecture.

She thought she heard a low and anguished voice, too. After listening intently for half a minute, she told herself that she must have imagined it.

Between two of the joists, backlit by a bare dust-coated bulb in a white ceramic socket, a fat spider danced from string to string, plucking from its silken harp a music beyond human hearing.

Bibi thought of Charlotte the spider, who saved Wilbur the pig, her friend, in E. B. White’s book Charlotte’s Web. For a moment, Bibi was all but unaware of the garage as an image rose in her mind and became more real to her than reality:

Hundreds of tiny young spiders, Charlotte’s offspring fresh from her egg sac many weeks after her sad death, standing on their heads and pointing their spinnerets at the sky, letting loose small clouds of fine silk. The clouds form into miniature balloons, and the baby spiders become airborne. Wilbur the pig is overcome with wonder and delight, but also with sadness, while he watches the aerial armada sail away to far places, wishing them well but sorry to be deprived of this last connection to his lost friend Charlotte. . . . 

With a thin whine and soft bark, the dog brought Bibi back to the reality of the garage.

Later, after the retriever had been washed and dried and brushed, during a break in the rain, Bibi took him into the house. When she showed him the small bedroom that was hers, she said, “If Mom and Dad don’t blow their tops when they see you, then you’ll sleep here with me.”

The dog watched with interest as Bibi dragged a cardboard box out of the closet. It contained books that wouldn’t fit on the already heavily laden shelves flanking her bed. She rearranged the volumes to create a hollow into which she inserted the chamois-wrapped collar before returning the box to the closet.

“Your name is Olaf,” she informed the retriever, and he reacted to this christening by wagging his tail. “Olaf. Someday, I’ll tell you why.”

In time, Bibi forgot about the collar because she wanted to forget. Nine years would pass before she discovered it at the bottom of that box of books. And when she found it, she folded the chamois around it once more and sought a new place in which to conceal it.

Customer Reviews

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Ashley Bell: A Novel 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 89 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. I've been a HUGE fan of Dean Koontz for decades ever since a friend gave me Lightning, which I devoured. Next was Watchers and after that I couldn't grab his books off the shelves fast enough as each was released. I was really excited to read Ashley Bell and read both novellas in advance. I'm so glad I did as one of the novella characters finds his way into Ashley Bell as a side character and I was so happy to see him show up! Ashley Bell starts off slowly and just keeps building as the truth slowly unravels and the puzzle pieces snap into place. As I began to get to know Bibi, as usual with Koontz's novels, I became enamored. There were intense scenes of non-stop action and MANY "What The...?!" moments. And I was completely spooked a few times! This book was classic Dean Koontz!! And then... Koontz pulled a mind blowing stunt that knocked my socks off! I've never been so completely impressed with a twist as I was with this one! Well done, sir!! The thing that I love the best in Koontz's books is that there is always so much love between his characters. Along with the most evil of villians, the goodness and love of his main characters is always there like the bright light shining at the end of the tunnel. Ashley Bell was no exception and left me on such a sappy high when I finished. Exceptional read for me!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It took a while, as the book couldn't seem to find itself for the first 100 pages or so -- then it really took off. In fact, this may be my favorite Koontz book, and I have read them all. His turn-of-phrase has me re-reading and, in some cases, highlighting in my book (which is a rarity). Bibi is a fascinating character, flawed and multi-layered. Her family and friends add depth and flair to the story. 4 out of 5 stars because of the rocky start.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just painful to have to sort through mounds of fluffy narrative which supported the fairly obvious plot.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the worst book I've tried to slog through in a long time. Koontz's writing style is like that of a 5th grader trying to get extra essay points and fill up the requisitetwo pages with wordy nonsense. I thought I was reading a bodice ripper. Oh and the sufer chick Bibi tries to vanquish the evil Terezin Birkenau, of all the preposterous character names, really a neo nazi with superhuman powers named after two of the nazi's most notorious death camps. I quit at almost 500 pages during most of which I was shaking my head in disbelief and shame that I read even one more page. Don't waste your money. I'll never read Koontz again, he ought a be ashamed to have produced such tripe.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Made it almost through 200 pages before stopping. Slow moving and made no sense at all to me. Sorry I purchased it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thought the book was good but not great. Didn't like as much as some of his other books. I found myself skimming over many pages. I've always enjoyed most of his stories and his wonderful imagination but felt this one was a little to off-the-wall, for me anyway. Would have given it 3 and 1/2 stars, if possible.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An exciting page turner, But then so are all his books ----i have never been disappointed
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read many dean koontz books and enjoyed them. This one was terrible, boring and redundant. I put it down three times and skimmed through many pages and made myself read the end. Too overdone, unbelievable in entire sections of the book. This is the first negative review i've ever written, hopefully it will be my last. Sorry.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sir, you are the master of a great mind with the uncanny ability to put forth your imagination in beautifully crafted words .... all wrapped up with a great big bow ... in a story that is aguft to your readers. I thank you for sharing your gift.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There was so much marketing and promotion of this book that I thought it would be amazing. And don't get me wrong, I am a Koontz fan. This book, however, was mostly a disappointment. I've read other books about folks in a coma living another life, but this one wasn't done so well. Bibi Blair was not a strong character, certainly no Odd Thomas. And the "big secret" at the end was a huge let down - almost insulting to the reader. It wasn't a bad book, but it wasn't great.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As usual Koontz has delivered another excellent novel. I am amazed how easily the characters in his books come alive. The plot takes some surprising turns. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. Once I started reading, it was hard to stop. Dean Koontz is one of my two favorite authors.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Koontzis my favorite author, that being said,he really missed with this book! Usually his books are gripping from the beginning this one took too long to get going. He finally made senseof the choppy plot and pulled it altogether in the end. Disappointing book and not up to the professional level i have come to expect from Deen Koontz.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked her coping mechanisms; wouldn't it be wonderful if our fears and trials coild be dealt with this way. As usual, Koontz's story allows good to triumph over evil which is always inspiring, despite the scariness in getting there. I did have trouble with a few characters, their wierdness and purpose; maybe that's just me. I woild recomend if you're a Dean Koontz fan.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not what I was expecting, and and the story was all over the place.
Jeff1 More than 1 year ago
I'm a huge Koontz fan but this book just didn't get it done for me. The story line was weak in my opinion. The character was typical Koontz but the scenario just was too far from reality to believable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not a fan of this book...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As always Dean Koontz delivers an awesome story... lots of twists and turns... One of my favorite writers, I'm never disappointed. ..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this novel through every little twist and turn. I was unable to put it down as I anxiously waited to see where the rollercoaster took me next. Thank you so very much!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Entertaining as always. Rich characters...
Deb-Krenzer More than 1 year ago
This was my second book I've read by Dean Koontz. I really, really liked the first one, The City. However, this one, was definitely different. I was really getting into this one. It seemed a little strange, but I was going with the flow until Pax came back from his overseas mission and then it changed. I'm not going to say how or what happened because I don't want to spoil it for anyone. But I just could not get into it after that. I did not find it believable at all. I did finish the book, but it was way too out there for me. I've seen the 5 star reviews, so apparently that's not the opinion of everyone. However, for me, it just wasn't my cup of tea. Thanks Random House Ballantine and Net Galley for providing me with this free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Steven Beltzer More than 1 year ago
This title was one I picked up on Net Galley to review, and well, I've taken a little longer to get to it than I like. That being said, I am really happy I got to finally read it cause it was extremely fascinating, thrilling, suspenseful, and imaginative (snicker snicker). There were parts of this book that felt almost Silent Hill-ish, with a bit of a few other really cool things, that I won't mention cause these moments will give away too much of the design. I highly recommend this title.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hated this book...I usually give books away to friends after I read them but this book was so bad I just threw it away.