Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Harlan Coben's 'Home' Adds New Twists to Familiar Territory, Characters -- Book Review

Book Review

by Harlan Coben
New in Hardcover

Last Wednesday, September 21, I was thrilled to be able to meet my favorite contemporary novelist, Harlan Coben, after he gave an insightful speech at the Skokie Public Library, in my hometown.

I wrote about Coben's stellar presentation just a couple posts ago, noting that it wasn't a book review for his just-released Home, but surmising that in having bought it--and being able to have Harlan sign it--that night, my reading and reviewing of his latest thriller likely wasn't far off.

I don't think that any of Coben's 25 previous page-turners--not counting three aimed at teen audiences, though the author suggested in person they are also worthwhile for adult fans--have taken me more than a week to read, and although I only had evenings to devote to Home, the same can now be said of it.

Although I theoretically love to read, the truth is that I don't read that many books, and certainly not quickly for the most part. Often I start reading something but give up before getting too far, and cannot call myself a great reader.

So the fact that I voraciously devour Coben's works--and the "Jack Reacher" novels by Lee Child, but all that much else--must speak to his gifts as a writer.

Yes, he's writing quick reads not high literature, but whatever that may connote, the truth is that I look forward to finishing them...and do, quickly, as again with Home.

And with 9 straight #1 New York Times Bestsellers--I assume Home will make 10--Coben, who was the first author to win the three top awards for mystery writing (Edgar, Shamus, Anthony), clearly isn't only to my liking.

So if you're a Harlan Coben fan who's come across this review, you can consider this a rather strong recommendation.

In Home, Coben has brought back the characters of Myron Bolitar and Win Lockwood--a college basketball star turned sports agent-cum-detective and his preppy-yet-lethal best friend and partner-in-crime-solving--who were constants in his first seven published novels, but now intermittent among numerous "stand-alone" works.

The two pals, who as the book begins haven't seen each other in a year, have a rather fun rapport, and as always, Coben augments the mystery at hand with keen observations about modern life and human nature.

The writer's stories almost always involve people from New Jersey or New York and some sort of domestic disappearance; in Home, Myron and Win are on the trail of two teenagers who went missing a decade ago from affluent Jersey environs.

Without giving too much away, there are some new variations on the theme, as the narrative begins in London with Win speaking in the first-person (Myron usually serves as the narrator, but not unilaterally here).

There are a few aspects that stretch credulity, and the protagonists actions aren't entirely admirable, but for the most part Home is a typical Coben runaway train that you read fast, don't want to put down and finds you rooting for the dynamic duo.

But for those who haven't read Harlan Coben before, and particularly not any Myron & Win tales, Home isn't the book with which I recommend you start, not just because of the cost of hardcover.

Although it isn't crucial that one be deeply familiar with the recurring pair (and as always Coben provides some background), at least one (if not all) of the Myron Bolitar novels of the '90s--as well as the more recent Promise Me, Long Lost and Live Wire in which they're central--would probably be beneficial to readers' appreciation of the tandem's backstory and interactions.

Obviously, use of a recurring protagonist or two isn't native to Coben, and in general it's a bit less than idyllic to jump in uninitiated. Which isn't to say newbies can't still enjoy Home, which shouldn't take anyone too long to ingest, but I would more so suggest beginning with Myron & Win of old, or one of Coben's excellent stand-alone novels, which also cover similar ground. (Six Years is a fairly recent favorite, Tell No One an older top pick and the new-in-paperback Fool Me Once also worthwhile.)

It's to Harlan Coben's great credit that he continues to churn out stellar page-turners at least once a year. As he noted at the library, he ascribes to Elmore Leonard's aim to "leave out the parts reader will skip," and as such, one rarely gets bogged down reading his books.

Of which his latest, Home, is another fine example, even if at this point acolytes who dive right in should feel a bit more at, uh, home, than those first encountering Myron and Win.

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