Doesn’t ring true
released 14 January 576 pages | Hardback/ebook Author dean Koontz Publisher HarperCollins
When you’ve written dozens of books over four decades, you can be forgiven the occasional clunker. Inside this much too long novel by veteran Dean Koontz is a decent enough short book, about a young woman – not the titular Ashley Bell, but a young Californian author called Bibi Blair. At the outset, she’s told she’s dying from a terrible cancer. Then she miraculously recovers and the story becomes a chase, with Bibi pursued by shadowy homicidal enemies.
There are a great many elements – childhood traumas, fortune tellers, a stray dog and neo-Nazi Men in Black – that seem unlikely to add up to anything. In the end, there’s quite a good solution, but it doesn’t justify the long slog to reach it, full of risibly fey descriptive prose and idealised or demonised characters. Good or bad, they deliver unsayable dialogue. Bibi herself is a fantastically gifted writer and all-round wondergirl, like the dreaded “Mary Sue” of fan fiction. In its favour, the book has some good old-fashioned creeps, involving menacing dark houses and hidden lurking things going boo. And the ending also suggests a rationale for some of the story’s irritants. But it doesn’t explain why it had to be so inordinately long. Andrew Osmond