Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Long Lost-Harlan Coben

So I was supposed to be reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle for my book club this month, and I started it, I really did...but apparently work plus grad school plus youth group plus family equals limited cognitive effort left for meaningful literature.  As a result, I'm only 100 pages or so into poor Edgar's story...but, I was able to fly through the latest book by one of my favorite mystery/suspense writers, Harlen Coben.

If you are a mystery lover and you have not yet read Coben you should consider yourself scolded.  His Myron Bolitar books, such as his latest, Long Lost, are fun, action-packed stories filled with the most eccentric group of recurring characters in the genre.  The main character is a former college basketball star who was drafted by the Celtics, only to have his knee blown out in pre-season.  His best friend is Win, an ultra-rich, ultra-connected prep school grad with a questionable sense of morality who uses his privilege to act as a lethal vigilante.  Myron's partner, Esperanza, is a former female wrestler known as Little Pocahontas, and their office help is her former wrestling partner-a behemoth of a woman named Big Cyndi.  Somehow this band of odd characters manages to get involved in very private detectivey kinds of situations without actually being private detectives.

This particular story revolves around a woman that Myron had a short, torrid affair with when both were at particular low points in their lives.  Now, several years later, she has called and asked him for help. Her ex-husband has gone missing, and she needs Myron's unique skill set to find him.  What starts out as a simple missing persons case soon turns into something much more sinister, and Myron and his gang are drawn into the very darkest side of the global political landscape.  The story is fast-paced, and while it occasionally stretches the boundaries of the believable, you can't help but be carried along as Myron and Win take on their biggest adversaries to date.

This novel, in fact all of Coben's novels, is the perfect popcorn book.  It's short enough that you can finish it fairly quickly, yet the characters and story are well-developed.  Coben's stories-like his characters-are deep but not subtle.  He describes the motivations of the characters and the events in such a way that you don't have to think too hard to follow what's happening, but the story still feels smart.  Myron as narrator is sarcastic and funny in a self-deprecating way that makes him extremely likeable because of his faults, rather than in spite of them.  Coben's books may not delve deeply into the human condition, but for entertainment value you'd be hard pressed to find a better read.

If you haven't read him before, I suggest you start at the beginning-while his series books have enough exposition for you to understand and enjoy the stories in any order, the development of the characters through time is worth starting with the first book in the series, Deal Breaker.

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