Plot summary (with spoilers): Caught is a standalone novel from Harlan Coben, which, like his other work that is not part of the Myron Bolitar series, means that it contains a bunch of characters, a couple of different major plot lines, and something that ties everything together by the time the last page is turned. In this particular book, the major plots are: 1) the downfall of several former suitemates at Princeton due to major scandals; and 2) the disappearance of a high school girl named Haley McWaid.
The novel opens with a man named Dan Mercer getting busted by a “To Catch a Predator” type TV show for allegedly preparing to rendezvous with an underage girl. A subsequent police raid on the man’s home turns up further evidence that Mercer is a pedophile. Though the judge throws out the case on a technicality, Mercer’s name is tarnished, causing him to lose his friends, his job, and any chance of a future life in the community.
Wendy Tynes, the anchor who broke the Dan Mercer story, comes out the worse for wear as well. She loses her job due to the non-conviction, which makes her want to keep pursuing the case. She has to find out once and for all if Dan is a pedophile or not. This is one of the reasons she agrees to meet with him out at a trailer in a remote area — the only place he can hide out somewhat safely.
But when Wendy arrives, a masked intruder bursts in and shoots Dan. Wendy thinks it’s Ed Grayson, the father of one of Dan’s alleged victims, but she doesn’t hang around to find out. She escapes, and call the cops, who arrive too late. The killer is gone. So is the body. A later search of Dan Mercer’s hotel room turns up Haley McWaid’s iPhone, which could mean that Dan was a pedophile after all.
Wendy continues to investigate, and soon uncovers the fact that 3 of Dan’s 4 Princeton suitemates have also become the victims of scandals within the past year that cost them their careers. She pursues this line of inquiry until she gets at the surprising truth regarding the suitemates and Haley McWaid’s disappearance.
- This was a good, old-fashioned page-turner. It started off a bit slowly as Coben set up the framework and introduced all the characters, but once the story got rolling, I could barely put my Kindle down. I finished this in just 2 days, and ended up with dark circles under my eyes for my trouble!
- I thought the connection between the two plots was feasible. Sometimes in books like these, the author really has to stretch believability, but I could buy it here.
- I loved that Win (from the Bolitar series) makes a cameo appearance in this one. It was cool to get a non-Myron perspective of him — and he actually provided information that was critical to solving the case.
- I was really hoping that Coben would not go for the expected endings. For instance, I hoped that Wendy Tynes would have allowed Jenna Wheeler, Dan’s ex-wife, to move away and get on with her life. Sure, that’s controversial, since she hosted the alcohol party where Haley drank too much and died, but again, it would have been unexpected. So what if Jenna framed Dan. That whole “dead is dead” thing was right.
And, I was hoping that Dan really was a pedophile. All the other guys Phil Turnbull exposed were guilty (the senator with his hookers and the doctor with his drug deals), so it would have made more sense for Dan to be guilty too. But since the book opened from Dan’s POV, I kind of gathered early on that he was set up.
- I didn’t like the Father’s Club/Ten-a-Fly rapper crap at all. What a waste of space. I can buy what the other former Masters of the Universe were doing after losing their jobs, but a middle-aged white rapper? Yeah, right.
- That whole throwing-a-glass-ashtray-and-disfiguring-someone-for-life incident was a bit odd. You’d think Phil’s family, with as much money as they had, would have pressured the university into having a hearing or allowing Phil to finish his courses by correspondence or whatever. And why did the family have to pay the girl hush money if Phil got expelled anyway?
Caught by Harlan Coben is a fast-paced thriller that will keep the reader guessing right to the very end. There were a couple of good twists along the way, and despite a few flaws, the novel was a fun way to spend a spring weekend. I give it 4 stars out of 5.