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I've read and reviewed a few Harlan Coben books previously and really like his style of writing, so I was looking forward to this after coming across it in the library. I wasn't disappointed; it was an enjoyable read I would recommend regardless of whether you're familiar with his books.
This caught my eye mostly because I'm familiar with Coben, but also because on the cover it tells us this was a 'Number One Bestseller', with a tagline of 'Scandal. Suspicion. Murder. It's child's play...', which was intriguing. We're introduced firstly to a disappearance of a 17 year old girl; with no leads and nothing to suggest foul play, thoughts turn towards her being a runaway but detectives are still hunting for the distraught parents. Meanwhile, Meanwhile, Dan Mercer, a guy who works as a social worker and takes his role working with troubled and in need young adults, goes about his life only to walk in to something he had never expected. Wendy Tynes, an NTC news reporter who has taken it upon herself to track down, lure and trap sexual predators in TV sting ops, seems to have caught Mercer red handed.
As the plot unravels, it seems that evidence against Mercer mounts but Wendy's intuition is telling her something different. Could she have smeared an innocent man? But when a father, convinced his son was abused at the hands of Mercer, decides to take it upon himself to restore justice after Mercer's case was thrown out of court, Wendy finds herself inside a deeper mystery. His body isn't found, most consider Dan to be guilty and yet his friends, ex-wife etc tell stories of Dan that just don't fit with him being a serial child abuser. Wendy looks in to his life, delving in to his college years and then towards his roommates, where she finds a tenuous link that opens another mystery.
I won't say any more about the plot except to say that the two stories, the missing girl and Mercer, run parallel before coming together. Each piece starts to fit in to place as more characters are introduces, more mysteries arise and more evidence mounts. I really liked the way that what we thought we knew or suspected gets questioned as more information comes to light; it kept me guessing, wondering what was really happening and why.
There was reasonable character depth for the main characters and some sideline ones, including Wendy, as we look at her life with her Son after her husband was killed by a drunk driver, for instance. We get a birds eye view of the cases and characters, yet Coben writes in a warm way that draws us to the characters, helps us to empathise and imagine who they are, what they're feeling and really gives us a sense of the scene by bringing it to live vividly.
As far as crime thrillers go, this has most of what you could want. Okay, so there isn't really much in the way of gorey murder, but there's plenty of detective work and twists and turns. It's an intelligent read and one that requires some effort to keep up with who's who. Fortunately, Coben is skilled at introducing a web of characters and events without confusing us, so I was able to pick the book back up and continue reading without feeling lost. The one downside for me was lack of character depth in the sense that I would have liked to have felt closer to one character, felt a bit more warmth perhaps, because even though we had background on several people (such as Wendy) there wasn't anyone I really identified with as standing out from the crowd and drawing me in, such as how the Character Win had done in previous novels (hence the 4 stars).
There's more praise for the novel on the back, including: 'Caught is a superb thriller' - Evening Standard and 'Twists that you don't see coming... not just exciting but also thought-provoking' - Daily Mail. I'd definitely agree with these comments. Whether you're familiar with Coben's work or not it doesn't really matter because this is more of a stand alone book. I liked the return of one character, for instance, Win, whom I was familiar with, but that's just a bonus for having read some of his previous books.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this. It's intelligent and complex with suspense and mystery, and yet is very enjoyable to read, keeping me gripped from start to finish.
380 pages over 38 chapters plus epilogue
Dan Mercer is a good guy. Giving his time to coaching basketball to kids who otherwise wouldn't have a chance at the game, working with impressionable, troubled youngsters, he's even on great terms with his ex wife and her new husband, sounds too good to be true? Well, maybe....
Haley McWaid is seventeen, bright, happy, intelligent, sports mad, popular, trustworthy and mature. So why has she suddenly disappeard without a trace and turned her much loved families world upside down?
For Wendy Tynes, mother, widow, T. V. Reporter, the world is black and white. When she receives an email from a troubled youngster with details of her abuser, Wendy does what she always has, follows it up and uses it for her show, after all the community deserves to know the identity of a paedophile in their midst.
Wendy isn't one to give up easily, even when the case she revealed is thrown out of court and she finds herself involved in a horrific crime. She soon starts to question her own judgement. Should she trust her instincts or the evidence?
That's all I'm going to give away!
If you are already aware of Cobens work, you will read this book expecting twists and turns in the plot and a fast paced read. While this book does have a few of those lovely little twists, there definitely was no where near as much action, or 'on the edge of my seat' racing moments as I've come to expect from his books.
On reflection, there are quite a few characters, who were all described well, some of which giving us a comedy aspect which is another of Cobens trademarks - look out for Ten-A-Fly! I always warm to Cobens main character, this book is no exception, Wendy is a very strong willed, confident woman, with a witty, if somewhat slightly sarcastic, sense of humour. I always expect reality to be stretched a little in these kind of stories, but Wendy certainly seemed to find it extremely easy to pick up information that no-one else (not even the police) had noticed and she also made amazingly helpful and knowledgable aquaintances very easily. Too easy, especially as she seemed to also need a lot of help from her seventeen year old son with using something as simple as Facebook. She also seemed to have rubbed people up the wrong way in her quest for a good news story and yet they all readily gave up important information to her. I don't expect storylines such as this to be 100% believable, but sometimes this was stretched a bit too far for my liking. Another thing that bothered me was that we were given too much of Wendys thoughts and feelings. Ok, she's had it hard, losing her husband to a drunk driver and bringing her son up alone. Many of these meanderings were about how much she loved her son so considering the story deals with Haleys disapearance there is some relevance, but after a while it just felt a little bit like he was just padding the book out.
We were introduced to Haleys family and given a good insight into the pain and anguish they were going through, especially from her mothers viewpoint. She seemed like another very strong woman and I expected her character to be included more, but after about halfway through the book, we didn't really hear much more from her viewpoint which I found disappointing.
I did like the inclusion of a couple of familiar characters from Cobens Myron Bolitar series of books, Hester Criemstein and the enigmatic Win. Neither had a very big part, just enough in my opinion to explain why their skills were necessary, but not enough to detract from the fact that this is a stand alone novel.
Reading this back, I sound really negative. This may not be the best Harlan Coben book I've ever read, but it's still a good book and well worth a read. I read it in a day and a half as I couldn't put it down, which must say something. Overall it's an intriguing story, the plot twists were good, two of which I didn't see coming, one I did! I liked the opening paragraphs too, which were a little unexpected and quickly hooked me in. I also like how Coben isn't too soft with his characters and isn't afraid to shock us, without being overly graphic. This is definitely worth a read, it's just that his other books are better.
My copy is printed by Orion books. There are 380 pages with a nine page preview of 'Live Wire' the next Myron Bolitar book which is due for release May 10th (I can't wait!)
When the mother of seventeen-year-old Hayley McWaid discovers her daughter's empty bed one morning, she is horrified to discover her daughter did not return home the night before. Hayley has never gave her parents any trouble and to not return home or contact them is totally out of character for the teenager.
Three months pass and her parents are no closer to discovering what has happened to their daughter and by this time everyone is assuming the worst.
Meanwhile TV reporter Wendy Tynes is feeling very pleased with herself. Her mission to catch paedophiles via televised sting operations for her TV programme "Caught in the Act" proves successful when her latest target, a social worker for troubled teenagers called Dan Mercer is successfully 'caught' as a result of her latest sting operation. Does this mean that Mercer could be involved with the disappearance of Hayley McWaid?
Wendy soon realises that Mercer's story is far more complicated than she could have imagined and all isn't as it seems. Trouble is... it may be too late to uncover the truth as things quickly spiral out of control.
Wendy finds herself caught up in things she cannot explain, but becomes determined to uncover the truth after realising she cannot trust her instincts anymore.
Everytime I read a Harlan Coben novel, I find I quickly become absorbed in the story and find it hard to put down. Coben is the master of twists and turns, keeping the reader guessing right until the end when everything finally comes together and I am left thinking how did he manage that? Or how come I never saw that coming? Therefore when a good friend gave me a copy of Coben's latest thriller to read, I couldn't wait to get stuck in!
'Caught' is another tense thriller. I once again became gripped by the storyline and found it very difficult to put the book down, however, I did find for the first time I was struggling to like the main character of the book, which is Wendy Tynes. Usually the main character in Coben's books are male and although he has written and developed a number of very good female characters in his novels, this time around I found I couldn't quite get away with the character of Wendy.
Right from the start I found her somewhat irritating as a strong-willed, know-it-all TV reporter who thinks she is doing everyone a favour by setting traps to catch sexual predators, but isn't prepared for what may happen should she make a mistake.
Wendy is also a mother herself and has a tendency to treat her own teenage son like a child which added further to her irritating qualities, along with the amount of time she spends working, which only increases as she turns investigator to try and uncover the truth after realising she may have made a big mistake.
Fortunately, after realising she can't trust her own instincts, I did find myself warming a little to Wendy, as a more understanding and less judgemental side is shown to her character.
The only thing I found a little far-fetched was how quickly Wendy was able to get any information she wanted it seemed and how she was allowed to continue her 'investigation'. Whilst it widely known that reporters are able to obtain information through 'contacts' etc, I found the ease and speed at which she achieved this at times to be unrealisitic, but of course that is just my personal opinion. I have no experience myself of such things and accept I could be wrong!
Coben delivers, as always, his twists and turns to keep the reader guessing and I was pleased to see here another of his traits - the mention or inclusion of characters from past books. Here we have criminal lawyer Hester Crimstein making another brilliant appearance, as well as little mentions of Loren Muse, Paul Copeland and 'Win' from previous books. It does not matter if you have not read any of Coben's novels before or know of these characters, as their inclusion will not confuse you or make you feel you have missed something. Their inclusion to those like myself who are familiar with them, I find is just simply a nice touch.
The story moves along at a decent pace, the tension building steadily throughout and then towards the end, a couple of great moments as the story takes on yet another twist. I found the plot quite believable as we are all familiar with TV and newspaper reporters setting traps to catch people out, but it isn't always a good thing if they don't get their facts right. Also it is a sad and sickening fact that sex offenders do exist.
The inclusion of social networking site Facebook in the storyline, is another nod to how the internet has good or useful websites that can provide a lot of enjoyment to their users, but unfortunately they can also be dangerous.
The thing Coben manages to convey very well in this book is that mud sticks and once rumours begin or people are wrongly accused, then it can ruin lives.
Caught is another good thriller from Harlan Coben. Whilst it is not the best book he has written in my opinion, which I must point out is purely down to the character of Wendy, I still found it a gripping read and one I would recommend. I did not guess correctly how it would end and that makes it a winner with me.
Released back in October 2010 "Caught" is the title of Harlan Coben's latest book release. I was introduced to the author after reading a review on an earlier title by a fellow dooyooer and became hooked by the complex and weaving storylines created and soon considered myself a fan of the authors work. My copy of "Caught" was a Christmas present last year and I finally got round to reading it just a few days ago, so what did I think?
What links the disappearance of a 17 year old girl, the man accused of abducting her and his connections to the past? Wendy Tynes, a television reporter thinks she has it all worked out. The star of her own show Wendy is unafraid to confront paedophiles live on air and sets up sting operations where she confronts those she has evidence against. Dan Mercer is the latest in her sights and Wendy is certain that the facts speak for themselves however something unexpected happens which plants the tiniest seed of doubt into her mind and as she is soon to discover not everything is as it seems. The further into the past Wendy looks the more she begins to doubt herself, how can the disappearance of 17 year old Haley McWaid be connected to something that happened decades ago? Someone doesn't want Wendy to find out and will go to great lengths to stop her uncovering the truth...
From the offset I expected "Caught" to be a typical Harlan Coben book; complex storyline, fast pacing and a killer double-bluff ending and just from reading the blurb on the back of the book I couldn't wait to immerse myself into the action. Now that I've finished the book I'm left with an odd sense of disappointment which I don't usually get from Coben's books and feel that perhaps "Caught" ended up being just too farfetched and, sadly for me, unbelievable.
There are plenty of Coben trademarks littered throughout the book and reading it does feel familiar. The action is at times quick paced and snappy, the characters fully rounded and engaging and even the ending has a 'Cobenesque' double-bluff which I never saw coming but overall I just got the impression that the book tries too hard to live up to its predecessors and ends up being wide of the mark. At just under 400 pages long the story feels forced in places as more and more discoveries are made by the central character, Wendy. The storyline is incredibly convenient at times and some aspects just didn't ring true, if Wendy had been a police officer then fair enough, she would have had access to vital information but at times she is told things and makes discoveries which anybody else wouldn't be able to get access to but Wendy, a TV reporter does. A bug-bear of mine in books is expositional dialogue and "Caught" unfortunately has plenty of it, we are expected to accept that secrets from decades ago which have been successfully buried away would be brought back to the surface so easily and Wendy always manages to be in the right place at the right time and speaks to the right people in the right order. Even if she comes across a problem that seems to be stalling her investigation she can make a telephone call to someone she knows and within 20 minutes they ring her back with an answer. I wouldn't quite say that "Caught" insults its reader's intelligence but at times it does come pretty close, it isn't terrible by any means, I wouldn't have read it to the end if I hated it and despite some niggles and concerns there are some good aspects to consider.
I did like the inclusion of some familiar characters from past books, Coben does this quite often I have found and I do think it's a nice touch. You don't need to know who these people are when they are mentioned as their roles are only minor but it is nice to find a character who you 'know' and "Caught" does feature a couple of names that will be familiar. Similarly the ending and reveals is typically Coben and again "Caught" is a great example of a book which includes at least 2 real 'wow' moments towards the final pages when all of its secrets are revealed. I won't go too much into these as they are obviously spoilers but if you do have the patience to sit through a rather convoluted and convenient plot then the ending does bring its own rewards, whether you have the patience or inclination to find this out for yourself will be down to you; the ending is good I have to admit and did tie up all of the loose ends and provide a satisfactory conclusion it was just a shame that the main plotline didn't quite live up to my own expectations.
It appears to be a book that has divided opinion, some have said "Caught" is one of Harlan Cobens best works whereas others have criticised it as being one of the worst. I'm kind of in the middle with this one, there are plenty of good points as already mentioned in this review but I don't think it's one of the best books of his that I have ever read and it's on that basis that I would only cautiously recommend it to anyone else.
Price and My Rating
My copy of the book was the oversized paperback version and had a cover price of £12.99. Checking on amazon.co.uk the traditionally sized paperback isn't due to be released until the 17th of February this year and the book is only available to buy in Hardback for £12.19 at the moment. For that price I would suggest waiting a couple of weeks and buy the cheaper, paperback version or if you are a Kindle owner getting it on that format for £6.99.
Three stars as a rating seems fair to me, it nearly was 2 but the ending did deserve a star on its own. Thanks for reading my review.
Harlan Coben's latest novel concerns the disappearance of a 17 year old girl, Haley McWaid. At the same time, an investigative journalist, Wendy Tynes, is in the business of setting up 'sting' operations to catch men preying on young girls. One such man caught by this trap is Dan Mercier, a man working with local youth. It doesn't take long for suspicion to settle on Dan as Haley's parents wait anxiously for news of their daughter.
However, a niggling doubt causes Wendy to further investigate Dan's background, in order to ensure that she has the right man. Her investigations throw up secrets from the past, involving, not just Dan, but many of his peers.
All in all, I found this book a little disappointing - something I have never experienced with a Harlan Coben novel before. It just didn't have the same bite as his earlier work and seems to lack his usual humour. All in all, not the page turner I was expecting. Still, I remain a Harlan Coben die hard fan and hope the next novel from this author will prove to be much more exciting.