Although I needed no introduction to Harlan Coben, I must admit that I’ve been a Coben Virgin up until now. And I also must admit that this book wasn’t top of my “dying to read” pile. But just as we should not judge a book by its cover, I discovered that I should not be judging books by their authors’ reputations. I obviously know Coben is huge, but for some reason I was expecting Dan Brown (me no likey Dan Brown)! Coben fans already know I could not have been more wrong. This novel is good. Very good.
Wilde (he’s just called Wilde) is ex-US Army, decorated, did his time abroad in special units and now lives where he was found, in the woods in New Jersey. At eight years of age he was discovered there and nobody has ever found out where he originally came from or who abandoned him to fend for himself. But he was fostered by a good family and he turned out well. He’s now a private investigator. Nuff.
He’s called by his friend, his stepmother of sorts and mentor Hester Crimstein, a hotshot TV lawyer, to investigate a missing girl. And he finds her. And then she goes missing again. The girl is the victim of a serious and vicious school bullying campaign. The ringleader of the bullies is Crash Maynard, son of the famous Dash Maynard (Coben has a sense of humour!), a very well-off TV producer who’s got some dodgy White House wannabes for friends. When Crash Maynard himself also goes missing, things take a sinister turn.
Coben is clever. This plot is so intricate that it’s impossible to see where it’s going and where it could end up. It moves at lightning speed and veers quickly from small, intimate personal crises to big national ones in a smooth heartbeat. Although the principal presidential wannabe is a caricature of Trump, Coben gives nothing of his own political opinions away. This is storytelling like good journalism; he just sticks with the facts (or the fictions) and rolls them out.
And although Wilde is at times an annoyingly cool, clean hero, I figure a cool, clean hero is something we could all do with right now. This is a taut, intelligent thriller.