Oddly enough, Ashley Bell is not the main character of this psychological suspense novel. She is the focal point of Bibi Blair’s quest after her fatal diagnosis of brain cancer at age 22. Bibi has always been an independent, intelligent, and creative person. She began her writing career as a child. She is much loved by her parents and fiancé, who is fighting terrorism in a secret location as a Navy SEAL when Bibi is diagnosed. In Ashley Bell, the three are powerless to help Bibi in her battle as Dean Koontz weaves an intricate adventure the reader will not soon forget.
In this novel based on Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Hyde seizes control. Though Hyde’s ramblings on the dark streets of Victorian London are often told with brutal detail, the novel takes an intriguing concept and tells an intelligent tale. The boundaries between good and evil are blurred and a dark and brooding re-imagined story emerges.
This retelling is a richly detailed and engrossing portrait of Stevenson’s characters, but Daniel Levine’s Hyde is not the first novel to re-spin Stevenson’s original. Mary Reilly by Valerie Martin told the tale from the point-of-view of Jekyll’s household maid.
In Anne Tyler’s latest novel, Aaron marries Dorothy, but his sister Nandina thinks it is an inappropriate match as Dorothy is much shorter and much older than him. But Aaron, who has some physical handicaps, thinks Dorothy is just right with her hidden beauty that only he sees. Also, she does not in any way hover over him in the controlling way his older sister has done since his youth. After an ordinarily happy marriage of ten or so years, Dorothy is killed in an unlikely accident and Nandina steps in again.
To Aaron’s and the reader’s surprise, Dorothy is not out of the story just yet, but walks in and out of various scenes in Aaron’s life. Aaron is amazed at the reaction of others to her appearances (or is it just the way Aaron acts and looks when she is around). The reader can be amused and at the end encouraged at how Aaron lets his life flow on to a quite satisfactory resolution to these strange happenings.
Aaron is an editor in his family publishing house (Nandina is boss) where there is much activity on the series of beginner’s books helping the novice start a new activity. If The Beginner’s Goodbye should enter that series, it would be a hit. This book is a bit of refreshment for those of us who still see our deceased spouse walking around the corner at the end of the hall or driving her car into the parking lot as if returning from a shopping trip.