Harlan Coben - Shastrix Books

Harlan Coben

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31st July 2018

The latest Myron Bollitar adventure is, in some ways, a return to the relaxed but violent writing style of the earlier novels in the series. On the other hand though, it brings with it some new 21st Century attitudes and the additional characters introduced in its young adult spinoff trilogy.

It’s an enjoyable story, following the classic model of a family friend in need, and an attempt against the odds at a rescue mission. There are some new twists - first person narrative from an unexpected character included, which threw me a little at first.

It’s interesting to see that Coben’s characters are moving with the times as well, and he goes to an effort in several places to have characters reflect on places that their previous behaviour was, on reflection, not acceptable or appropriate behaviour in a number of fields, and the characters are depicted having a mature and grown-up reaction to their changed understanding. I feel like a lot of respect is due to Coben on this front - not defending his creations but giving them time to grow with the world.

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Found

Found

26th May 2018

The third (and so far final) novel in the Mickey Bollitar series continues the adventures of the young nephew of the author’s adult thriller star Myron. Like with the previous novel, a lot of what’s going on is a continuation of the ongoing story, but there is a self-contained element to the narrative as well.

It’s a strange trilogy, clearly targeted at a much younger audience than the main series of novels - with a reduction in the graphic violence certainly - but also feels like a little side adventure that this book wraps up. I’m not sure how I feel about this, having not (as far as I can recall) read such a spinoff before.

While the book is fine as an adventure, it really only works with the context of the earlier two and doesn’t stand alone. The language used, as well as the plot, seem a little simplistic, and the characters have lost some of what made them compelling at the start - they’ve become somehow blander and the elements that made them most interesting have been stripped back.

I’m kind of glad it’s over, and the next book by Coben I’m going to read will return to the adult series - and it will be interesting to find out what repercussions of this aside there are there.

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Play Dead

Play Dead

20th December 2016

Harlan Coben's first novel, which he tells you in the introduction not to read before his other books as it's old and rough, follows the life of ex-supermodel Laura as she deals with the aftermath of losing her husband.

It's a good, if slightly over-long thriller, filled with intrigue. In some cases though things are a tad too obvious and the hints feel like they should have been more subtle. There are also a few red herrings that are glaringly obvious and could have benefited from being better buried. However a lot of the story is revealed at a good pace and it does well to keep the attention of the reader and keep the story moving.

The characters are a bit generic - we're aligned with various of them but still never get to know them in any real depth. They feel more like characters in a film where you can see them but not see inside them. This is probably emphasised by a deliberate attempt to obscure motivations, which limits the access we have to the inner thoughts of most of the characters.

So overall a mix of reactions. I enjoyed reading it despite the rough edges, and don't think it really deserved the warning that the author had appended.

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Seconds Away

Seconds Away

22nd April 2016

The second young-adult story about Mickey Bollitar, teenage nephew of the author's long-running thriller character Myron, follows on immediately from the end of the previous story and makes a lot of references back to the events depicted therein.

Thinking back, I'm not sure it's possible to easily describe the plot - it containing so many elements that don't really add up into a single whole. In fact, the lack of a strong resolution to the storylines makes it somewhat more frustrating than satisfying, and I hope that the third, and so-far final, novel in the series wrap poss things up neatly or I'll be quite irritated.

The secondary characters are still interesting, although I'm not sure there's enough done with them that's different to what we had before, and some of the new developments that do occur feel wedged in and more to provide what the plot requires rather than a natural extension of the characters we had met before.

Overall, a quick read that didn't do anything special for me.

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Buy book: UK
Shelter

Shelter

29th December 2015

In the final Myron Bolitar novel, Harlan Coben introduced his star character's nephew Mickey, and in Shelter this new teenage character takes centre stage in his own adventure when his girlfriend disappears.

It's clearly an experiment in writing for a young adult audience, but that's something that Coben pulls off really well, migrating his trademark mix of thriller and violence and soap opera into something suitable for the target demographic without watering things down to the level of parody (as John Grisham did when he wrote his young adult novels).

The story doesn't shy away from violence or from other adult themes such as drugs, and makes for interesting reading for an adult too. The characters are interesting and varied - a mix of social outcasts with differing talents and interests who come alive on the page rather than attempt to just be a vehicle to get the reader into the story.

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Live Wire

Live Wire

25th May 2015

The final Myron Bollitar novel sees the fictional detective turn sports agent turned non-specific agent turned troubleshooter hunting for one of his clients, who has gone missing after seeing a suspicious post on a popular social media site.

It's interestingly different to some of the earlier books, in that Coben no longer seems to be writing stand-alines in this world and each book does have repercussions on the next, the lives of the characters are changing and they are growing - they've escaped what I originally described when reading the first book as 'Hardy Boys for grown-ups'.

That said, this story does seem to be more of a vehicle for setting the world up in a particular way for the future, rather than being mainly about its own plot - for while that's interesting to an extent and leads to a thrilling ride, it doesn't really add up and I'm still not entirely sure what was going on, who was the eventual bad guy, and how things were adequately resolved.

I've strangely enjoyed the entire Myron Bollitar series - it's a bit of escapism that doesn't take itself too seriously (most of the time) yet still manages to deliver strong character- and mystery-driven stories, and it's evolved throughout rather than retreading the same steps over and over.

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Long Lost

Long Lost

2nd December 2014

The ninth Myron Bolitar adventure is the most serious and surprisingly dark of the series that I've read. Bolitar is summoned to Paris by an old flame and becomes embroiled in an investigation that spirals completely out of control.

The whole plot takes on a very serious angle that seems out of keeping with the comic style that marked out the earlier novels as being 'Hardy Boys for grown-ups'. There are moments where the banter between the characters remains, but it seems out of joint with the nature of the story which feels more like something from one of the author's straighter crime novels.

I wasn't that impressed actually - it's not what I was hoping for with another Bolitar adventure, which I associate with a bit of a lighter experience (though it's still modern crime rather than armchair detectives). I preferred the originals, and hope that the next (and to date final) book in the series is more in keeping.

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Other reviewed books

Promise Me
Tell No One
Darkest Fear
The Final Detail
One False Move
Back Spin
Fade Away
Drop Shot
Deal Breaker

Unreviewed books

Caught
Gone for Good
Hold Tight
Just One Look
Missing You
No Second Chance
Six Years
Stay Close
The Innocent
The Stranger
The Woods

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