Saturday, April 16, 2011

Review of Caught by Harlan Coben

I've read every one of Coben's books beginning in 1995 with the Myron Bolivar series. Bolivar is a sports agent and ex-professional basketball player, a sentimental guy, who seems to live in the past. Indeed, he still lives with his parents and has a touching relationship with both of them. He teams up with his well-connected roommate from college, Windsor Lockwood III, to start a business representing professional athletes. Each of the first seven books in the sports series reveals a little bit more about Bolivar's past, which seems a mystery even to him.

Although Caught includes a cameo appearance by Lockwood, the book is a stand alone. You need not read the Bolitar series to understand it. If you have read the series, however, you will appreciate the plot twists and recognize Coben's earlier style. Caught is like the series in the way Coben keeps digging deeper and deeper into his characters to understand their very human motivations and hidden secrets. But in Caught, Coben does it all in just one book and with it I feel he has come full circle.

The story begins with a TV news reporter Wendy Tynes, who goes after pedophiles. She has built up a lot of rage toward a drunk, who killed her husband in a traffic accident. Pedophiles are an easy outlet for her anger, since they are incapable of attracting any sympathy. While she reveals social worker Dan Mercer's proclivities in a live sting operation, a child in the same neighborhood goes missing. Three months later Mercer disappears, and Wendy begins to wonder whether she may have been wrong about him.

Coben slowly reveals the backgrounds of and tie-ins among Dan, Wendy and the missing child with a practiced tempo. As with the series, he likes to interject cultural references that lighten the mood. This and his introduction of Lockwood as a resource for Wendy's research are a kind of tip of the hat to Coben's loyal readers.

I recommend all of Coben's books, beginning with the 1995 Deal Breaker, and his eight stand alones, starting with Tell No One (2001). Don't read Promise Me first. I thought it was a weak comeback to the Bolitar series and his writing abilities should not be judged solely on it. His stories are timely and hinge on the fact that ordinary people often take the wrong path or make the wrong choices with unforeseen circumstances not only for their victims, but for themselves. Coben opens our eyes to a black and white picture of his characters' lives and then changes our perspective by exposing them and revealing their true colors.

Copyright 2011 by Linda K. Murdock. Linda K. Murdock is the author of Mystery Lover's Puzzle Book, Crosswords with Clues from Your Favorite Mystery Series. She reads over 50 mystery books a year. Her puzzle book is a mini-anthology that reviews 29 award-winning writers, who do mystery series. A check-off list of all the titles in each of the series, along with a crossword for each series, are included. See a sample crossword and learn more at

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