Harlan Coben is an author famed for his interesting plots. If a story has a twist or turn that it can take, Harlan can find it. That is true in his new novel Caught. There are situations that are never as they seem, plus there are characters who seem good but are bad and vice versa. This is a complex but contagious novel. Readers will flock to it and will shout its praises to their friends.
Even more compelling though is its moral theme. This is a book about compassion and forgiveness. It hammers home the point that forgiveness is not for others but is rather for ourselves. In this book the lead character is an investigative television reporter named Wendy Tynes. At the start of the story Wendy is a woman with a cause.
The cause she is espousing is the capture of a pedophile. She has been on line and has pretended to be a teen age girl. She has done this because she got a tip that a pedophile was lurking there. She lures and entraps this man and it leads to a tragic ending. At first Wendy feels justified in her actions but later she begins to have doubts. Those doubts make up the crux of the story.
This is Harlan Coben at his best. He creates characters who do the things we would do and then spins those actions into wild feats of believability. He also gets into the hearts of grieving parents and lets us know how they would act and react when a child is defiled and/or missing. These are complex situations and making them read believably is not an easy task. It takes a master writer and a master observer of the human condition.
Wendy is a hero of the highest degree in that she is willing to admit she has made mistakes. At first she is going after possible sex offenders for her own glory and for advancement of her career. She reaches a point however when the facts of the case indicate she might have been wrong in her profiling and entrapment. At this point she searches just as hard for another truth. It is an about face but one that Coben sets up and substantiates.
Fiction reading doesn't get much better than this. You have strong characters on stage in a plot that is forever changing with the revelation of new facts and occurrences. The actions of the characters ring true and the development of the plot overall does too.
Then there is the message of forgiveness which permeates the entire story. Coben has his moral compass working full time and it helps bring the satisfying conclusion to pass. When the last words of Coben's story are read it leaves the reader with complete satisfaction and fulfillment.
Harlan Coben has always been a good writer but with this book he exceeds his past performances. From the first page forward you will be caught up in the adventure and excitement of Caught.
CAUGHT is published by Dutton. It is 388 pages and sells for $27.95.
Jackie K. Cooper