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Book Author: Harlan Coben

DON’T LET GO by Harlan Coben: Book Review

Napoleon Dumas has been haunted by two things for over fifteen years.  First are the deaths of his twin brother Leo and Leo’s girlfriend Diana, second is the disappearance of Nap’s girlfriend Maura.  To some of his friends, Nap seems to have been frozen by these two terrible events; he abandoned his college plans, which included a possible hockey scholarship, lives alone in the house in which he grew up, and never has had another important romantic relationship since the traumatic events at the end of his high school senior year.

Don’t Let Go opens in a Pennsylvania bar.  Daisy, a strikingly attractive woman, comes into the bar alone and seats herself next to a man, asking if he minds if she sits there because someone is bothering her.  The man, whose name and backstory she already knows, seemingly doesn’t care one way or another, but Daisy pushes and keeps the conversation going through the several drinks that the man consumes.  After the fourth drink, Daisy’s plan is set.

She asks the man if he can drive her home, and he agrees.  It’s all part of an intricate scam designed by a divorce attorney and carried out by Daisy’s friend, Rex Canton, a policeman in the town.  Daisy and the “mark” will get into his car, drive a couple of blocks, and Rex will pull them over and do a sobriety test.  It’s a setup so that the man gets a DUI conviction on his record, which will work against him in the divorce case that his wife has initiated.  But this time, when Rex stops the car, the driver pulls a gun, kills the cop, and drives off with Daisy.

That’s the prologue to Don’t Let Go, and I defy anyone who reads it to put down the book at this point.

Nap is a detective on a suburban police force in New Jersey.  He’s good, very good, at his job, but he’s consumed by the death of his twin.  Everything he does, every action he takes, he “tells” Leo about it, as if looking for approval.  And when two police officers from Pennsylvania ring Nap’s doorbell to tell him about Rex’s murder and the fingerprints found on the scene, Nap knows that this is what he’s been waiting for.  The fingerprints belong to Maura, missing for eighteen years but now coming back into Nap’s life.  Several years earlier Nap put Maura’s prints into a national registry, asking to be notified if newer prints were found; now it’s proof that Maura is alive and not far away.

Nap and Leo were incredibly close in high school, and Nap would have said he knew everything there was to know about his twin.  But, as he gets drawn more deeply into Rex’s murder and the appearance/non-appearance of Maura, Nap is finding out there was much more in Leo’s life, and in Maura’s as well, of which he was totally unaware.  And it appears that every event–the double deaths, Rex’s murder, Maura’s return, and a secret high school club that Nap never knew about–are all connected.

Harlan Coben has written another taut, suspenseful thriller.  Don’t Let Go is a completely satisfying novel that will keep you guessing until the very end.

You can read more about Harlan Coben at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.


HOME by Harlan Coben: Book Review

It’s been ten years since six-year-olds Patrick Moore and Rhys Baldwin were abducted from Patrick’s home in suburban New Jersey.  Their parents have never given up hope that the boys will return, but with each passing year it has gotten harder to keep the faith.  Now one of them appears to have been located, but what about the other?

Rhys is the son of Win Lockwood’s cousin Brooke; she is one of the very, very few people about whom he cares.  One other, of course, is Myron Bolitar.  The two men have been friends since they met the first day of their freshman year at Duke, and although they couldn’t be more different on the surface, something has kept them close all these years.  Win, however, disappeared from Myron’s life a year ago without explanation; now a long-distance call from England is the first confirmation that he is alive and well.

Win tells Myron that he believes he has seen Patrick.  He had received a cryptic email that gave a clue as to the boys’ location in a seedy part of London.  When he gets there, he sees a teenager who looks like Patrick might look ten years after his disappearance, but before Win can approach him three thugs head toward the boy.  When Win tells them to leave, they turn on him with knives but, Win being Win, all three are dead before they have a chance to attack him.  Then, when he turns to talk to the boy, the teen is gone.

Win’s phone call is to ask Myron to fly to England to help search for Patrick and Rhys.  What they find is deeper and even more disturbing than the kidnapping itself.

Home is partly narrated in the first person by Win, more formally known as Windsor Horne Lockwood III, and partly in the third person limited point of view of Myron.  Win is a man of incredible wealth and intelligence but also a man almost devoid of empathetic responses.  Even his anger is controlled, always contained.  As he says of himself in the opening chapter, after killing the three men who were threatening the boy Win believes may be Patrick, “I give myself a second, no more, to relish the high.  You would too, if you didn’t pretend otherwise.”  He knows what he is and makes no apologies for it.

In Home, Win’s softer side comes out for the first time.  This is obviously because of his feeling for his cousin Brooke; this familial relationship is the reason Win has disappeared for a year, attempting to find her son.  Now he has come closer than anyone else by finding Patrick, whom he hopes will lead him to Rhys.  But it’s not that easy.

Harlan Coben is a master storyteller.  In this novel the tragedies of two families are paramount.  Win and Myron are an outstanding team, but even they cannot heal all the heartbreak that the Moores and Baldwins have experienced.

You can read more about Harlan Coben at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at  her web site.


THE STRANGER by Harlan Coben: Book Review

Harlan Coben has done it again, writing a mystery that will grab you from the first line and not let you go.  “The stranger didn’t shatter Adam’s world all at once”–how’s that for an attention grabber?

Adam Price is a successful lawyer in a wealthy New Jersey suburb, a place where, to quote Garrison Keillor, “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”  Adam is having a drink with friends when a stranger comes up to him and says, “You don’t have to stay with her,” and with those seven words Adam’s life as he has known it comes to an end.

The stranger tells Adam that his wife, the mother of his two sons, faked a pregnant test two years ago.  When Adam protests, the man tells him to check his Visa bill; there he’ll find the “fake a pregnancy” website that Corinne used.  Corinne is away for the day at a teachers’ conference so, after fighting the urge, Adam goes online to check out the stranger’s information.  And, sure enough, he finds the proof that his wife created a fictitious pregnancy and then “had a miscarriage.”  But why would she do that?

Heidi Dann is getting into her car after a luncheon with friends when she hears a whisper in her ear, another life-changing message to an unsuspecting person.  There’s a website called,” she’s told.  

Dan Molino is at his son’s football game when the stranger says, “You know, don’t you?”  And all the stranger wants is ten thousand dollars not to make public the contents of the manila envelope he hands Dan.

These three strands are all important to this novel, but most of the emphasis is on Adam and what follows the stranger’s whispered remarks to him.  Adam is trying to hold his family together as best he can, but the ties are weakening.  How could anyone could have discovered her deception?  Why won’t Corinne explain the reason she did what she did?  

Harlan Coben is an absolute master of suspense.  The people in his novels are your neighbors, your friends, even you yourself, caught in a maelstrom of terror.  One day you are going about your business, with your life continuing as usual, and the next day everything is turned upside-down.   And whatever steps you take seem useless.

Harlan Coben is the winner of mystery’s trifecta–the Edgar, the Shamus, and the Anthony awards–for his novels, which have sold over sixty million copies.  Let me predict that The Stranger will add many more to that total.

You can read more about Harlan Coben at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.



CAUGHT by Harlan Coben: Book Review

It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve been blogging for more than a year without reviewing a book by one of my favorite authors.  I’m remedying that right now.

Caught, by Harlan Coben, is another of his outstanding stand-alone mysteries.  Most mystery writers who write both stand-alone and books in a series, I have found, seem to write better books in the latter.  But the opposite is true of Harlan Coben.  Although I enjoy his Myron Bolitar series, I find his non-series books to be more exciting and to have more believable plots.

Caught is two stories that eventually connect.  First is the one about Dan Mercer, a Princeton graduate who is now a coach and social worker. He’s very involved in working with teenagers, but he’s recently been accused by television reporter Wendy Tynes of seducing the young teenage girls he’s supposed to be helping.  She sets up a sting and Mercer is arrested.  He protests his innocence, but a search of his house finds child pornography on his computer.  Mercer’s career is over.  He’s threatened, beaten up, and is forced to move from his house to one seedy motel after the other to avoid those townspeople who believe he’s guilty.

When the trial judge tosses all the evidence that Wendy Tynes had found in Mercer’s house and reprimands her for the bias in her story about Mercer, Wendy loses her television job. A few days later she receives a call from Mercer; if she wants to find out the real story, she needs to meet him in the trailer park where he’s currently living.  She goes, but almost immediately after she walks inside, a masked gunman bursts in and shoots Mercer.  The floor is covered with blood, and Wendy escapes and calls the police.  When they arrive, there’s no body in the trailer.

The second plot revolves around the disappearance of sixteen-year-old Haley McWaid, the “perfect” daughter of a couple in the same town. She was popular, had good grades, came from a loving family, but one morning when her mother went into Haley’s room to wake her for school, the bed was empty.  As the story opens, three months have passed and there’s been no sign of the teenager.

Coban’s characters are superbly written. At the end of the novel you realize that there are few black-and-white characters, they are mostly shades of gray.  There’s the police detective who’s been looking for Haley McWaid for the entire time she’s been missing; Mercer’s ex-wife, whose defense of him has cost her friends in the town; Pop, the father of Wendy’s deceased husband; Haley’s parents, who went from having an angelic daughter whom they never worried about to living in a perpetual nightmare.

And there’s Wendy Tynes, a reporter who won’t let go of the story.  At first absolutely convinced of Dan Mercer’s guilt, she becomes less sure of it, especially after she discovers that in the group of men he shared a suite with in his college days, the other four have also been dogged by a year of personal misfortunes.

One is a financial advisor fired from his job because he was accused of embezzlement, the second had to withdraw from a congressional race due to a sex scandal, the third is a medical doctor accused of using and selling drugs, and the fourth is a schizophrenic patient in a mental hospital.  The financial advisor, the politician, and the doctor all proclaim their innocence, as did Mercer.  Can this all be coincidence, Wendy wonders, or is someone behind the scenes manipulating these people for an unknown reason?

You can read more about Harlan Coben at his web site.