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Close But Not Close Enough To Coben's Usual Crime Thrills
Stay Close - Harlan Coben
Member Name: cazkins
Stay Close - Harlan Coben
Date: 23/10/13, updated on 23/10/13 (51 review reads)
Advantages: Interesting & enjoyable read that keeps you guessing
Disadvantages: Felt a bit rushed, less developed characters, less credible premise
I've read and reviewed a few Coben novels now so I consider myself a fan and was happy to see a new one I hadn't already read in the library a few weeks ago. However, whilst this was still an engaging and enjoyable read, it lacked some of the intrigue and masterful writing I have become accustomed to from Coben.
On the cover we're told that this is "The unmissable new thriller from the 'master of the hook-and-twist'" and that it's the 'Number One Bestseller'. There's also a tagline to draw us in: 'Three people. A second chance to put things right'. This falls within the crime thriller genre and is predominantly set in Atlantic City and New Jersey. We're introduced to Megan, a suburban soccer mom with two kids, a husband and a house with a picket fence. Her life should be the dream lots of women aspire to, but it's far from the life she used to lead; the days gone by are ones she seems to have kept hidden from her husband, as if her past is a separate part of her, one that no longer exists. Meanwhile we also meet Ray, once a talented photographer, he now works for some two-bit company who hire him out to pretend to be a member of the paparazzi, just so the clients can feel like celebrities. Weird, but it's a job that just about pays the bills.
Something happens that throws Ray in to a plot that he can't fathom out and he has unwittingly become involved in something he can't at first imagine. It brings him to Megan, or rather, the Megan he used to know years ago. Meanwhile, there's another sides story running featuring Detective Broome, who can't let go of a cold case. The disappearance of a man left his wife unable to let go, unable to live fully without any answers. Broome wants to help but can't seem to get any new leads. As the storyline progresses, Ray, Megan and Broome meet in a mishmash of events, possibilities and suspicions. As these 3 lives start to interconnect, the past begins to reappear. Could the disappearance Broome is still hungering after to solve be linked to a string of other disappearance? Secrets begin to reveal themselves in a piecemeal fashion as disappearances, murder and heartache come to the forefront.
Enter Ken and Barbie, two rather unusual suspects who obviously have more evil agendas than their seemingly innocent exteriors suggest. We also meet with Broome's ex-wife, Erin, as Broome attempts to dig apart the most recent crimes that he thinks could be linked, potentially, to the cold case he still mourns for. Most recently is the disappearance of Carlton Flynn, and this guy brings us to a club called La Cremme; the club allows the varying characters to come together, a bit like spiders crawling to the middle of a web.
I won't say anymore on the premise because it would give too much away about what actually links the characters together, which forms part of the whole 'whodunnit' mystery. The premise itself was made unique by the characters and events, and there were a few twists along the way to shake things up. I couldn't have predicted from the outset quite what was happening or how the characters would eventually intertwine, so I wanted to keep reading to find out what happens.
The style of Coben's writing is something I have always enjoyed because he makes people and places three dimensional, and he is able to bring them to life quite well in Stay Close. You get a feel for who these people are, what motivates them and can thus empathise with their situation. You can also imagine where they are and this builds a good atmosphere, especially as events take darker turns. He's able to accumulate characters and suspicions without confusing us with names and places, keeping a relatively even pace for the most part. I didn't find myself becoming bored, nor did I find myself getting left behind. The style of writing wasn't, however, quite up to what I had hoped. I didn't always feel things were made to be too realistic or as palpable and gritty as they could have been. It just didn't gel quite right; rather than being fluidly written where you can get absorbed and keep reading because you start to believe in the characters and what's happening, I felt he left some of the characters a bit underdeveloped and the plot lacking a degree of credibility.
This novel just didn't really do for me what other Coben novels have. The ending felt rushed, almost like the author ran out of time and decided to throw things together and tie them up without too much thought or effort. That sounds rather harsh, but having held a decent pace until the end it seemed a shame to have it ruined. The storylines then seemed weaker; you hang on until the end to see how things piece together and suddenly they get thrown together without making much sense or fitting quite as you'd like to see because it was rushed.
On the back is further praise for Coben, including 'A tour-de-force... Satisfying on every level' - Booklist, 'An outstanding success... Coben cannot be faulted' - Sunday Epress, and 'One of the most consistently brilliant thriller writers' - Daily Mail. Unfortunately, I would disagree, though only slightly; I didn't think this was his best work and felt a little disappointed by the writing style in comparison to his other novels.
Overall, Stay Close still offers a fairly gripping and enjoyable read, I just felt disappointed compared to what I had expected from him. The rushed end, lack of depth to some characters and scenes, and weaker plot credibility mean I have to knock some stars off unfortunately as I think other Coben fans may be left wanting a little too.
RRP £7.99. Selling on Amazon for £3.85 (paperback, 416 pages)
Summary: Not quite the same degree of masterful writing I've become used to from Coben