Saturday, April 3, 2010

Caught by Harlan Coben

Caught, the new thriller by Harlan Coben, opens with a Dateline-type predator sting. Dan Mercer, a social worker who devotes his time to at risk kids, is responding to a call from one of them, a teen-age girl. She has asked for his help, asked him to come to her foster family's address. When he gets there--lights! camera! action!--a microphone is thrust into his face and a pushy, self-righteous reporter demands that he explain himself. Evidence placing him in teen chat rooms posing as a teen himself is found on the hard drive of his PC at home, kid porn is found hidden in his garage. He must be guilty. So why is Wendy Tynes, the reporter who helped to catch him, plagued with doubts? And what connection does his case have to another teen girl--this one an over-achieving product of a warm, nurturing home-- going missing? And why are three of Dan's suite-mates from Princeton all of a sudden finding themselves also framed for unsavory crimes?  

The chapters are short (although not James Patterson short) and the action moves at breakneck speed. Coincidence is definitely Harlan Coben's friend, but you know what? I don't care. This is a good, satisfying thriller, with likeable, fairly complex characters and a mildly surprising ending. Yes, it's candy, and it will be gone from your mind before you know it. But there are far worse ways to spend a few hours of escape time.


Try Coben's other fiction. Tell No One is a great place to start. The novels of Linwood Barclay--his most recent is Never Look Away--also explore the fragility of the family unit, and how little it can take to throw a family into chaos and despair.

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