Harlan Coben,
Don't Let Go
(Dutton, 2017)

Napolean "Nap" Dumas, a suburban New Jersey cop, is haunted by an incident from 15 years in the past. At that time, his twin brother, Leo, and his girlfriend, Diana, were killed, hit by a train, and his girlfriend, Maura, disappeared. The circumstances have always struck Nap as suspicious; he is not satisfied that things are what they appear to be.

Now, a decade and a half after the incident, more of Dumas's high school friends are being killed. What do these victims have in common? They were all members of a group they called the conspiracy club. One of the victims, a cop, is found with two bullets in the back of his head and a partial print turns up in the rental car belonging to the murderer. It is Maura's fingerprint.

Dumas, who has never been able to let the original case go, renews the investigation he has never fully given up and finds a conspiracy bigger than he thought possible. He also finds unknown powerful forces that do not want him to discover the truth. As he searches for answers, mostly he finds more questions and learns that his crew of high school friends, along with many of the people in town, were and are not who or what he thought them to be.

That's the general setup for Harlan Coben's new book, Don't Let Go, a compulsively readable, hard to put down suspense novel that begins in high gear and ramps up from there. Coben, the master of the suburban thriller, excels at creating a community; in his books, the town itself becomes a central character and the interlocking people who live there have a mutual dependency that reeks of the way small town really are. Coben masterfully sets up the place and the way that, beneath its calm and settled surface, lie secrets that can destroy lives.

Another strength of Coben's is his plotting. Each event grows out of a preceding one and, while there appears to be many different strands of story going on, all connect to create a suspenseful payoff.

If there is a flaw in Don't Let Go, it is this: it's too easy to spot the killer; his identity becomes apparent way before it is supposed to be revealed. At first, I thought the author was giving us a clever piece of misdirection, so I was a little disappointed when my suspicions turned out to be correct. But then, maybe I just read too many thrillers.

That flaw was not nearly enough to spoil my pleasure at reading Don't Let Go. You'll enjoy it, too.

book review by
Michael Scott Cain

26 August 2017

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