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Want You Back, Want
Gone for Good - Harlan Coben
Member Name: samueltyler
Gone for Good - Harlan Coben
Advantages: Fast paced, well structured
Disadvantages: Bland characters
It is all too easy to become obsessed with the past constantly wondering what could have been. What if you had stayed with that person? Tried harder at school? Not set fire to the local youth centre? People that dwell on the past for too long are going to live sad lives as they cannot appreciate their present or look to the future. Personally, I try to live in the moment enjoying myself before I die. I'll take note of the mistakes I have made and learn from them, but won't let bygones upset me. Not everyone is as lucky when it comes to the ability to forget the past, for some people it is part of their very fabric and leaks into their work. I have to assume that one such person is Harlan Cohen the highly successful crime thriller author, his books are almost always about a character's past coming back to haunt them. Having read the seemingly same story by Coben on several occasions could 'Gone for Good' stand out?
15 years ago Will Klein's family was thrown into turmoil when a local girl was murdered and his brother, Ken, was the prime suspect. On that day Ken fled and has never been seen since, some believe him dead, others that he has travelled to Europe. In the present day, Will has got over the stigma of having a criminal brother and now runs a charity for homeless children. He has a new love and all is going well, until his mother dies uttering her final words that Ken is coming back. There is more to Ken's disappearance than first meets the eye and more than one person is looking for him. One pursuer is the violent Ghost - a man trained to kill. Can Will find his brother before anyone else does whilst his own live disintegrates around him?
As mentioned in my opening paragraph Coben is an author who writes about the past a lot. Some authors have threads that crop up on occasion, but some to the point that they become repetitive enough to be boring. Dean Koontz falls victim to this and in his lesser novels so does Coben. At his worst Coben seems to write on auto pilot coming up with almost identical storylines. In fact, 'Gone' is not an exception to this as on the surface it is yet another book about a person with a hidden past coming back to get them. For the first 20-50 pages I was worried about the same old rehash, but thankfully this was one of the books that reminded me why the author is so popular in the first place.
The technique of writing in the present about things in the past is not an easy one to pull off. You have to make people's memories seem believable as several years will dull the senses. Great authors like Agatha Christie have written books that reflect on the past and failed to make a compelling read. In the case of 'Gone' Coben succeeds. Although the book has similar themes as other works the actual story is a fast thriller that entertains with its numerous twists and turns. Coben has managed to develop a multilayered story that seems to be about separate events, but as time progresses they draw together. For me the sign of a good mystery is when you are slightly confused as to exactly what happened only for the author to conclude all in a clear and concise way. This means that you are able to reflect back on what you have just read and notice all the clues you missed.
The mystery and structure of 'Gone' is of a high standard, but that is not the case with all the elements. The characters in particular suffer as the leads are a little dull. Will is pretty much a nothing character and is merely used as a vessel for others around him. The same can be said for the two female love interests who do not have any sort of real depth. It is up to the smaller side characters to shine with best mate Squares and enemy Ghost being the only two people in the book that you are likely to remember. The lack of charismatic leads does not ruin the book, but it does mean that you are unable to feel the emotional depth needed for a classic.
'Gone for Good' is easily one of the better Harlan Coben novels even though it uses the same contrived storylines as the majority of his books. It is the elements of mystery and danger that make it stand out, not the fact that it bounces from the past to the present. I still prefer Coben's Myron Bolitar novels as they are a series which has allowed the hero to develop, but as one of his standalone books this probably ranks as high as 'The Woods'.
Author: Harlan Coben
Price: amazon uk - £4.48
play.com - £5.00
Summary: Using the past to good effect