Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Woods -- Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben has pretty much started his own sub-genre in the crime field. If you've read his standalone novels, you know what I'm talking about. Nearly all of them have the same hook: some family member or friend is murdered or disappears. Supposedly. Years later, evidence turns up proving that the murder might not have happened. Or that the person who disappeared is still around.

Everyone in the book will have secrets relating to the murder or the disappearance, even the protagonist. Nobody will come out unscathed at the novel's conclusion.

This time the crime occurs in the woods near a summer camp. (No, it's not Camp Crystal lake, and the killer didn't wear a hockey mask.) Four people are presumed dead, though not all the bodies are recovered. Now it's twenty years or so later, and the victim of a current murder turns out to be one of those thought to have died in the woods. So what's going on? Paul Copeland, a New Jersey county prosecutor, wants to know because his sister was supposedly one of the victims, and her body wasn't found.

Did I mention secrets? Even Paul has them, and he's repeatedly warned to stop his investigation into what happened at the camp. Even the killer, now in prison, warns him. But Paul, being like all characters who find themselves being warned off in crime novels, keeps right on digging. There are complications and twists galore, maybe too many, as the book rockets along to its conclusion. Has anybody ever written about Coben as a noir writer? I think this book is noir. But maybe I'm wrong. Check it out and see.


Anonymous said...

Can you think of any mystery novels where the main character is warned off and does back off? That could be interesting, seeing how the story progresses when the character is paid off or wussing out.

Unknown said...

I can't think of any. I think every p.i. I've ever read about has been warned off.