8 February 2017

Review #586: Stay Close by Harlan Coben

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“The past is never where you think you left it.”

----Katherine Anne Porter

Harlan Coben, an international bestselling author, has penned a gripping crime thriller, Stay Close that revolves around three characters, one who has hid her past but now it is threatening to wipe out her perfect life, the other laments on his broken heart and the reasons behind it and barely manages to make his ends meet and the last one has become a maniac upon investigating the case of a missing man that happened 17 years ago, and the future looks bleak for these three characters, as the missing person count begins to rise in the same manner, their pasts come undone.


Megan is a suburban soccer mom who once upon a time walked on the wild side. Now she’s got two kids, a perfect husband, a picket fence, and a growing sense of dissatisfaction. Ray used to be a talented documentary photographer, but at age forty he finds himself in a dead-end job posing as a paparazzo pandering to celebrity-obsessed rich kids. Jack is a detective who can’t let go of a cold case—a local husband and father disappeared seventeen years ago, and Jack spends the anniversary every year visiting a house frozen in time, the missing man’s family still waiting, his slippers left by the recliner as if he might show up any moment to step into them. Three people living lives they never wanted, hiding secrets that even those closest to them would never suspect, will find that the past doesn’t recede. Even as the terrible consequences of long-ago events crash together in the present and threaten to ruin lives, they will come to the startling realization that they may not want to forget the past at all. And as each confronts the dark side of the American Dream—the boredom of a nice suburban life, the excitement of temptation, the desperation and hunger that can lurk behind even the prettiest facades—they will discover the hard truth that the line between one kind of life and another can be as whisper-thin as a heartbeat. With his trademark combination of page-turning thrills and unrivaled insight into the dark shadows that creep into even the happiest communities, Harlan Coben delivers a thriller that cements his status as the master of domestic suspense.

Megan Pierce, the once-upon-a-time-a-Vegas-stripper, misses her old glittery and glam life a lot, especially in the midst of her hectic yet satisfying daily routine of her current life. Megan is now a mother of two children and wife of an average lawyer living in the suburbs with not much worry about the past life that she has successfully buried on the night of Mardi Gras almost seventeen years ago, when one of her client goes missing suspiciously and unfortunately Megan becomes a prime suspect in her client's disappearance. But her old life comes knocking at her door, when a short visit to the nightclub where she worked as a stripper, turns threatening not only for her but also for her family, and Megan must discreetly come clean about the untold secrets about the night she left behind everything in hope of a clean future.
Ray Levine, the once-upon-a-time-popular-photographer, still holds on to the memory of his runaway girlfriend, Cassie who was a stripper, and broods and sulks his day away by barely keeping hold onto his on-hire-paparazzi-job by a weak thread. Little did Ray knew that a surprise mugging of his camera and his equipment would lead him back to the night of Mardi Gras when Cassie became MIA without a reason and so her client. Detective Broome is still searching for Stewart Green, the man who went missing seventeen years ago on the night of Mardi Gras without a a trace as he has promised Green's wife and his family that somehow he would give them a closure, although now, another high profile man goes missing in the exact same manner on the same night seventeen years later and all the clues lead him back to the stripper who went missing along with Green. Can the three individual characters find one another before they become a pawn to a dangerous game or become a victim on the hit-list of a ruthless contract killer couple?

After reading Fool Me Once, I held high standards for this author and felt that even his previous books too are equally good. Although the plot is pretty tight but the anticipation of the whodunit felt pretty weak. And sadly, this book has failed to intrigue or thrill me in any way possible. Nevertheless, the story line is captivating and the rush of the mystery kept me engaged pretty much the entire length of this novel. For me, this was a satisfying read but not too satisfying for my gray matter, as the challenges and the twists come undone halfway through the story line.

The author's writing is something, as the author has penned in an arresting manner and it felt like the author knows how to lure his readers into the heart of his story. The narrative is both sentimental and appealing enough to make the readers stick to the pages of this book like a moth stuck on a glowing light bulb. The pacing is extremely fast and the whole story unravels at the speed of some unpredictably wild tornado.

The mystery part, like I mentioned before, isn't that well developed. The twists and the predictable turns are extremely foreseeable not only for any seasoned crime-fiction reader but also for a general reader too. There is a bit of action and lots of drama that makes the tale spicy yet something to hold on to, despite the mushiness.

The one thing that makes Coben's books a sure shot winner is the characters, which shine like a gem through their flaws, strength and humanity. The characters are real to their very core and will constantly make the readers comprehend with their behavior, be it bad or positive. The main character, Megan is an excellent character, she has many flaws, but a great wife-cum-mother who is protective towards her family yet dedicated enough to get to the bottom of the stinking mystery behind her missing client. Ray is a sympathetic character and his bad luck follows him like a shadow, but his determination to find Cassie is extraordinary. Broome is a thoughtful homicide cop, whose vow to Green's wife gives him hope to investigate the mystery behind the missing men and the strippers related to them.

In a nutshell, this is an enthralling yet entertaining crime thriller that will better be enjoyed by general readers instead of the dedicated fans of the crime fiction genre.

Verdict: There are better books written by this author! So this one can be easily skipped.

Author Info:
With over 60 million books in print worldwide, Harlan Coben’s last seven consecutive novels, MISSING YOU, SIX YEARS, STAY CLOSE, LIVE WIRE, CAUGHT, LONG LOST and HOLD TIGHT all debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and lists around the world. His books are published in 43 languages around the globe.
Coben is the winner of the Edgar Award, Shamus Award and Anthony Award – the first author to win all three – and he has received an eclectic variety of honors from all over the world. His novel TELL NO ONE has been turned into a hit French film of the same name. His essays and columns have appeared in many top publications.
Harlan was born in Newark, New Jersey. He still lives in New Jersey with his wife, Anne Armstrong-Coben MD, a pediatrician, and their four children.
Visit him here

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