I have just finished Harlan Coben's new book - Stay Close. It was an ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) that I got from Christine Ball of Penguingroup, and is due to hit the bookstores March 20. What can I say? This guy is great. I first became aware of Coben probably 20 years ago in Lake Tahoe. I was in Tahoe City at a bookstore (yes, they have bookstores in Tahoe). I was just browsing, and an employee there recommended Coben. I think he had written just a couple of his early Myron Bolitar books. I got hooked immediately and have always jumped on every one of his books. Stay Close is my (and his) 21st book. I have either loved or really liked every one of them. This one is no exception.
I think I have already mentioned seeing him in person twice. The first time was at a National Kidney Foundation luncheon in San Francisco probably 5 or 6 years ago. He was one of about 6 authors that was featured that day. He gave a little spiel and signed his books. He's a very funny guy and not the least bit pretentious (it's interesting that of all the dozens of authors that I have seen, very few have been even slightly pretentious - even Ken Follett, who has the right to be pretentious).
The second time I saw him was early last year at Book Passage in Corte Madera. It was a Monday night, and we drove a heck of a long way to see him. It was worth every mile. He was absolutely charming and something of a stand-up comic. The funniest story he told was about his teenage daughter. His latest book was on the kitchen counter. It just so happened that it was turned to the inside cover in the back of the book. That, of course, is where the picture of the author typically resides. His daughter looked at the picture and said "Dad, that is so gross," or words to that effect. Here's a guy who, basically, has a #1 bestseller every time out, and he's telling a room full of admirers a self-effacing story. It was very funny but, more importantly, very insightful about his character.
Perhaps you'd actually like to know what the book is about - or do you want more of my mindless prattling (before you rush to your comment button, that was a rhetorical question!)? Okay, this book centers on a woman who, 17 years earlier, had been an exotic dancer in Atlantic City. She is now a suburban housewife with an attorney husband, two kids, and a very nice house. She is drawn back to AC and becomes re-involved (is that a word?) in a murder that took place 17 years ago along with a kidnapping that took place only a few weeks before. Along the way, she encounters a police detective still working the case, a long-time female bartender at a strip club, and a photojournalist working as a fake paparazzo. All four of them have connections to that long-ago murder. Add in Barbie and Ken look-alikes , a very wealthy businessman looking for his son in a most unusual way, and a high-level policeman on the take, and you have quite an eclectic mix of characters.
Let's face it. Coben is as good a murder mystery writer for the masses (as opposed to the intellectuals - Vonnegutt, Le Carre, et al) as there is out there. Every book has an intricate plot and some kind of surprise ending. This one is definitely right up there with his best. In fact, I figured out the ending only at the end - after Coben handed it to me. I admit to being a bit dense when it comes to knowing where a book is heading, but this one will be a challenge for all readers, even the sharp ones.
Get to the bookstore (brick and mortar or digital) on March 20 and snap up Stay Close. You will not be disappointed. I guar-own-tee it.
ON DECK: Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader - Volume II