Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Darkest Fear by Harlan Coben -- A Quick Book Review

Photo: from, at this address

Another very appealing Bolitar novels, again proving the series is better than the stand-alones. In this one, a 13 year-old boy needs a bone marrow transfusion. A donor has been found, but then goes missing. Can Bolitar find him?

He can, and does, of course, and along the way he punches a bloated, soft-in-the-middle lawyer, kidnaps a millionairess, captures a serial killer, gains a great client, annoys the feds, and deals with daddy issues--with himself, and with his own father. The result is another mystery in the series that works well because it deals well with the real problems of its main character, problems we all face, especially guys in our 40s, as both Bolitar and myself happen to be.

One aspect here--the identity of an older man living by himself--was as obvious to me as it will be to you, but that's okay. You want to get some it yourself, right? Umberto Eco and James Joyce are great writers, but they're smarter than we are, too--and who wants to be outsmarted all the time, and condescended to at the end because the writers know they're too smart for us? I'm not calling Harlan Coben a dummy here--and he wouldn't want to be thought of in the snooty vein anyway. I'm saying the opposite: Coben knows his genre, and he knows he can't outclass the reader all the time. You've got to let them in on the fun sometimes.

I've said before that Coben, like Bolitar himself, tries too hard, and he does here as well. It's an okay too hard, like when he always (and I do mean each and every single damn time) admits to the cliche before he springs the cliche upon us. Sometimes he admits the cliche so he doesn't have to spring it upon us--but by doing so, he's springing it upon us, and it's cliche at this point to admit to the cliche in this way, and for this reason, anyway. But he makes it work. If you know the genre, you know the cliche, and you know the admission of the cliche, and when it comes, and you're already expecting it, he's got you in his hands, don't you see? It's all part of the game. Coben knows you're smart enough to know it, and he knows you'll be happy to know that he knows you're smart enough to know it. So in the end he's giving the reader what he wants. And, if you listen closely to the minor characters in this one, he's telling you why you're so happy to be acknowledged and pseudo-complimented.

And how easy it is to just go along with the game all the time. We stay on that path, right?

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