Monday, May 8, 2017

Review: HOME

HOME by Harlan Coben (Century, 2016)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

A decade ago, kidnappers grabbed two boys from wealthy families and demanded ransom, then went silent. No trace of the boys ever surfaced. For ten years their families have been left with nothing but painful memories and a quiet desperation for the day that has finally, miraculously arrived: Myron Bolitar and his friend Win believe they have located one of the boys, now a teenager. Where has he been for ten years, and what does he know about the day, more than half a life ago, when he was taken? And most critically: what can he tell Myron and Win about the fate of his missing friend?

It's great fun to be back riding with sports agent-cum investigator Myron Bolitar and his best friend, deadly 'rich kid all grown up' Winn. After a few years absence (the previous instalment in the series was released in 2011), the pair are back in action when Winn resurfaces in London, thinking he's spotted a boy who was kidnapped ten years ago alongside Winn's nephew. The pair were never found.

Needing help, Winn calls Bolitar - the first time the former college basketball star has heard from his best friend in more than a year. And so he, and we, swing into action.

Fans of the series will be glad of the new instalment. It's full with the blend of page-turning tension, action, and humour that Coben has perfected over the years. The story flies along as it twists on itself when Bolitar and Winn recover one of the boys, but he's too traumatised to reveal anything about what happened to all those years ago, or more importantly - where Winn's nephew might be now.

The story will toy with your heart strings a bit, as the seemingly carefree Winn is confronted with a painful new chapter in a never-forgotten family tragedy. Have his efforts made things worse for his beloved sister? Cracks appeared in both families following the abduction, and have never healed.

Being blunt, I'm not sure if this reaches the heights of some of the other books in the Bolitar series, but even a middling Harlan Coben novel is an engaging, worthwhile read. He has a great knack for emotional tension, and he's a master of the missing persons crimes, rather than relying on murder and those life and death stakes. For in some ways, missing can be worse than murdered - the faint hope that remains torturing the friends and family members left behind. Closure out of reach.

It's also fun to catch up with the other characters in Bolitar's life, a quirky bunch that are full of personality and give each other plenty in the banter stakes, while being there for each other when it matters. From Esperanza and Big Cindy who are now touring the nostalgia wrestling circuit with Bolitar having closed his sports agency, to Bolitar's nephew Mickey (who stars in his own young adult series where Bolitar appears as the stuffy uncle), who alongside his friends provides some much-needed expertise and assistance in dealing with the traumatised rescued teenager.

This is a good read in a very good series.

Craig Sisterson is a lapsed lawyer who writes features for leading magazines and newspapers in several countries. He has interviewed more than 180 crime writers, discussed crime writing onstage at festivals in Europe and Australasia, on national radio, is a judge of the McIlvanney Prize, and is the Judging Convenor of the Ngaio Marsh Awards. You can follow him on Twitter: @craigsisterson

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