Monday, May 31, 2010

Review: CAUGHT by Harlan Coben

CAUGHT by Harlan Coben (Orion, 2010)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

After bringing back popular sports agent-turned-investigator Myron Bolitar in last year’s Long Lost, acclaimed suspense king Harlan Coben (who won the inaugural ITV3 Bestseller Dagger at last year’s Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards in the UK) changes tack with a high-octane standalone thriller this year.

A New Jersey town is rocked when 17-year-old Hayley McWaid, captain of the high school lacrosse team, disappears without a trace. Meanwhile social worker Dan Mercer’s life is turned upside down when he’s outed and publicly shamed as a sexual predator on ambitious reporter Wendy Tynes’ nationally-televised news program ‘Caught in the Act’. Even when the evidence against him is tossed out, his old life is gone for good; but that’s the least of his troubles as the town turns on him and his estranged family. Violently. Tynes finds herself questioning her own instincts and the motives of everyone around her, and as she digs deeper to find the truth, all sorts of skeletons start coming out of all sort of closets, in the town and beyond

Coben has built his name on ‘pulse-pounding’ tales where secrets of the past come terrifyingly to bear on the present, and he delivers once more with CAUGHT. Pages will whir, and lights will stay on, as readers are kept up late at night by this cracking thriller. Some may find the plot a little too intricate, with too many characters, issues and aspects brought together – everything from paedophilia to embezzlement to murder to the dangers of social networking websites to underage drinking – but there’s no doubt it’s an exciting and entertaining story that gallops along. And in amongst the mayhem, Coben raises several interesting issues and philosophical questions (though many may be overlooked by readers due to the pace of the story), including ruminations on good intentions with bad outcomes, forgiveness, and redemption.

While many crime writers have a knack for pacy, page-turning plots, Coben rises above many of his peers with his mastery of injecting emotion and human turmoil into such hurtling storylines. For many readers, CAUGHT will be an enjoyably frantic ‘airport’ or weekend read; a rollercoaster ride that has their heart pumping and head spinning. But for those take a breath and look around, there may be even more to see. 4 STARS

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