Darkest Fear by Harlan Coben

September 25, 2011

Plot summary (from the publisher): In Darkest Fear, Myron Bolitar faces the most emotionally shattering case of his career. And it all begins when Myron’s ex-girlfriend tells him he is a father–of a dying thirteen-year-old boy….

Myron’s sports agency is struggling. Now more than ever Myron needs to keep his eye on the ball, sign up some big-name clients, and turn away from the amateur detective work that is taking precious time away from the agency. But life is not going according to plan. Myron’s father, recently recovered from a heart attack, is facing his own mortality–and forcing Myron to face it too. Then comes another surprise.

Emily Downing, Myron’s college sweetheart, reappears in his life with devastating news: Her thirteen-year-old son Jeremy is gravely ill and can be saved only by a bone-marrow transplant–from a donor who has vanished without a trace. And before Myron can absorb this revelation, Emily hits him with an even bigger shocker: Jeremy is Myron’s son, conceived the night before Emily’s wedding to another man.

Staggered by the news, Myron plunges into a search for the missing donor. But for Myron, finding the only person in the world who can save a boy’s life means cracking open a mystery as dark as it is heartbreaking–a mystery that involves a broken family, a brutal kidnapping spree, and a cat-and-mouse game between an ambitious reporter and the FBI.

Somewhere in the sordid mess is the man who once signed his name to a bone-marrow donor’s registry, then disappeared. And as doubts emerge about Jeremy’s true paternity, a child vanishes, igniting a chain reaction of truth and revelation that will change everyone’s life forever.

Warning: Spoilers below!

Liked:

  • This was a typical Myron Bolitar book, complete with the over-the-top, inappropriate, and ill-timed humor that readers have come to expect from Myron and Win. In that way, it was an easy, comfortable read.
  • I liked the way Coben treated the revelation that Myron was the father. I was worried that it would turn out to be a bluff on Emily’s part just to get Myron to help, which of course would have been the ultimate cop-out. Coben didn’t let Myron off the hook like that, but he didn’t treat the situation as a touchy-feely time for celebrating. Nobody decided to take advantage of a backwoods cigars free shipping offer to order some celebratory stogies, there was no clinking of champagne glasses, etc. And I liked that Greg didn’t die, either. That also would have been way too much of a cop-out. Now Myron is stuck with an uncomfortable, uncertain situation — just as most people would be “in real life.”
  • The whole storyline involving the writer (Stan Gibbs) was interesting. I couldn’t figure out exactly what the guy had to do with the plot, but knew it was something big. I knew he couldn’t be the original kidnapper/killer because of his age, but I liked the twist of him covering for his father and murdering his girlfriend to keep the secret.
  • I love Myron’s relationship with his parents. It’s very rare to see adult protagonists portrayed as being so close to his or her parents in a healthy, non-dysfunctional way. This is a unique aspect of the Bolitar books that I really appreciate.
  • I liked that Myron and Greg didn’t suddenly become best friends after all was said and done. There’s just too much history and bad blood between them to have it all evaporate in a matter of days.

Disliked:

  • It really bugged me the way Myron kept saying that all they had to do was “find the donor”, as if that would be the final solution to everything. I mean, he basically took it for granted that if they found the match, the guy would be perfectly willing to donate his marrow. Not once did Myron and Emily talk about how they would “convince” or “persuade” or even “beg” this mythical donor to give up his marrow. The be all and end all was just finding the guy. Perhaps it’s just semantics, but this really did rub me the wrong way.
  • Okay, I think I liked the “are we good or are we evil” debate in the last Bolitar novel, but I don’t want that same old question to be rehashed in every installment. It’s already getting boring!
  • Maybe I missed something, but I didn’t understand the whole Dennis Lex identity swap thing. Why did Stan’s father need a fake ID anyway? He was never a suspect in any crimes, so I don’t get why he needed to steal Dennis’s ID in the first place. Was that just an unnecessary twist on Coben’s part?
  • I just don’t like Big Cyndi at all. I know a lot of readers/fans think she’s funny or whatever, but whenever I read Coben’s descriptions of her gaudy wardrobe and makeup, it just sounds like he’s trying way too hard to be “different.”

Rating:

Overall, I thought Darkest Fear was a very solid entry in the Myron Bolitar series. It had some flaws, but it was still a page-turner for the most part and it sets up some very interesting possibilities for future books. I give it 4 stars out of 5.

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