RUN AWAY by Harlan Coben (Century, $A32.99)
Harlan Coben is the master of the intricate, tricky suburban thriller that twists and turns its way to an unexpected ending, and Run Away is probably one of his best books for some time. Not only does it deliver the stunning surprises and startling shifts in direction we have come to expect, it also has a high level of emotional impact and some nice moments of quiet poignancy.
As with most of Coben’s novels, Run Away is situated within the confines of an ordinary family torn apart by a surprising development. Financial adviser Simon Greene was living the American dream with a beautiful successful wife and three lovely children, until his eldest daughter, Paige, got caught up in drugs and ran away. Greene has never given up on his daughter, not even when a chance encounter goes wrong, and he ends up being arrested for punching the man who is providing her with the drugs. When the man later turns up murdered, Greene is the police’s prime suspect. He sets out to clear his name and find his daughter, but following a shocking development Greene becomes caught up in a deadly conspiracy that threatens everything he holds dear.
Coben’s smoothly written narrative engages the reader from the opening page and sweeps them up in an intriguing plot that quickly spins off in unexpected directions. Although the storyline proceeds down some out-of-the-ordinary paths, Coben grounds it in convincing everyday details and observations which make it seem more credible. There is also a good cast of supporting characters who add to the pleasure.
The plotting is great, but there is an over-reliance on some of Coben’s stock devices to progress the story. As is often the case in Coben’s books, Greene is helped by someone who is more used to violence, has access to guns and is more readily able to deal with the baddies than he is. This is a standard feature of Coben’s books, but in this case it does not seem as credible as it does in other books. There is also a quirky pair of killers, who are both scary and amusing at the same time. Again, this is a device that Coben has used before and it seems a little forced on this occasion.
These quibbles, however, are minor and do not detract greatly from what is a highly enjoyable book that delivers some great shocks and the usual logical, but totally unexpected, ending. Greene’s family, and at least one of the minor characters, also deliver some relatable moments of poignancy and even sadness that stick in the mind. Highly recommended.
I give it four and a half stars out of five.
Run Away is released in Australia on 2 April and in the United Kingdom on 21 March 2019.
Thanks to Penguin Random House Australia and the Canberra Weekly for an early copy of the book.