Newest Review: ... lure and trap sexual predators in TV sting ops, seems to have caught Mercer red handed. As the plot unravels, it seems that evidence ag... more
Caught Red Handed?
Caught - Harlan Coben
Member Name: cazkins
Caught - Harlan Coben
Advantages: Plenty of twists & turns, intelligent premise, well written & enjoyable to read
Disadvantages: See review
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
Summary: One I actually really enjoyed and would recommend to crime thriller fans