Reading a Harlan Coben novel is like reconnecting with an old friend. His books are always good and always grab you from page one. The new one, Six Years, will be published on March 19. As I mentioned on my Book Sage Facebook page, I received this ARC in the mail a couple of weeks ago. Here's the kicker - it came from Dutton, which is an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), which (who) dumped me as a blogger back in May of last year. I don't know what happened to get me off the do-not-send-to list, but I'm glad they did. Because I'm buying any Coben that comes out.
So enough about my reinstatement (is it permanent or is it a one shot deal? only time will tell). In Six Years, Jake Fisher, a poly sci (that's political science for those of you not in the know) professor at Lanford College in Massachusetts, falls madly in love with an artist, Natalie, that he meets at a retreat in Vermont. It appears that they were made for each other. A few months later, Natalie breaks up with Jake, without any warning, and marries a man named Todd. Jake goes to the wedding and still can't believe that she is not with him anymore. After the wedding, Natalie comes up to Jake and says: "Promise me you'll leave us alone. Promise me you won't follow us or call or even e-mail. Promise me, Jake. Promise me that you'll leave us alone." Jake promises.
6 years go by, and Jake has lived up to his promise. But he has never gotten over Natalie. He still loves her now as much as he did 6 years earlier. He's had some 1-night stands but has never really connected with any other woman. Then, one day, he sees an obituary on Lanford's website that Natalie's husband has passed away in North Carolina. He can't help himself. He goes to the funeral, and when Todd's wife comes out of the chapel, Jake sees that it's not Natalie.
Thus starts his search for Natalie. This is a very intricate story line. It's extremely clever and has the usual Coben trademarks - threats, warnings, fights, deaths and, very important to me, humor. There is tons of smart-aleck humor, which is my favorite kind. In one scene, Jake is taken into custody and says to the arresting officer: "I'd like to call my attorney." Then the next line, which he says as the narrator, is: "I don't have an attorney." He has the ability to throw in humor even while people are dying around him. It sounds a bit macabre but does, in fact, work.
After Jake gets into a fight and is beat up pretty good, he's called into the university president's office. When the president says: "You look like hell, Jacob," Jake resists the temptation to say: "You should see the other guy." I got a big kick out of this because my father-in-law, later in life, used to always say that exact same thing whenever he fell, or banged some part of his body on a hard surface, or had a ton of blood work done. It was nice to have a memory of him surface from reading a novel.
Six Years is solid. It's not one of Coben's best, but it doesn't have to be. It's still going to get to #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. And it's still entertaining as heck. If you're already a Coben fan, then you will automatically read it. If you're not yet a fan, then read it and you will become one. What else can you ask for from an author?
SIDE NOTE: I know I've already told you this. But if you get a chance to see Coben at an author's event, make sure you go. He is very funny and a real mensch (if you don't know Yiddish, look it up - it's a great word). You'll be glad you made the effort.