By Harlan Coben
Coben is not only one of today's top selling thriller writers, he has almost single handedly spawned a special category, that of contemporary domestic suspense. This, his latest, vividly demonstrates his knack for creating everyday characters of interest and his great talent for plotting. However, he may have overstretched himself this time.
The set up is provocative. In an upscale commuting community live Dr. Mike and Tia Baye who have installed spyware to check on their son, Adam. The teenager has been acting strangely of late., especially since the suicide of his best friend Spencer. Even before meeting the Bayes, however, the book has opened with the startlingly brutal and cold-blooded murder of a woman named Marianne that ultimately catches the attention of local authorities including investigator Loren Muse.
Meanwhile some of the Baye's neighbors are going through tough times of their own. One's young son is in desperate need of a transplant, but the father's medical results indicate that he is not the natural father. Other neighbors, Spencer's parents, still cannot accept their son's death, drowning in guilt as to why they were unaware of his problems and his use of drugs. Then there is the Baye's younger daughter Jill whose best friend Yasmin, has been traumatized by a teacher's inadvertent dig at her.
Coben has developed each of these strains with great care and insight, especially concentrating on the concerns of parents for their growing children. The reader almost forgets this is a thriller, but Adam Baye's disappearance triggers a series of seemingly unrelated threats to Mike Baye. He is plunged into following any lead that can be developed, which ultimately finds him in the Bronx at an unsavory place that attracts teenagers with tantalizing offers of independence. Yasmin's irate father threatens his daughter's teacher. And the hidden murderer of Marianne kills once again.
Coben clearly conveys the growing desperation that draws all the parents to try to solve their situations. But it is in the attempt to tie all these elements together that he seems to have some trouble. He has strained credibility. Yet that does not stop the reader from enjoying the thrill ride.
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