Stay Close by Harlan Coben

May 14, 2012

Plot summary (from the publisher): 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.

Warning: Spoilers below!

Liked:

  • I thought Ray’s faux paparazzo gig was a fantastic detail. The way Coben described made it clear that this guy had hit rock bottom as far as work was concerned.
  • The Mardi Gras connection between the murders was a nice twist. That was a great way to make readers believe that the killer’s “pattern” could be hidden from law enforcement for so long.
  • I called that Lorraine was the killer about midway through the book. Usually I don’t figure these things out at all and have to wait for the reveal. This fact should probably go under the “Disliked” category because it implies that the solution was too easy, but I want to pat myself on the back here!
  • I also liked that Lorraine became a celebrity after the arrest. She’s definitely not the kind of person who would spend the rest of her days in one of those chairs church goers know so well, spilling her guts to a priest. This was a fitting end, I thought.

Disliked:

  • I had a hard time believing that Megan/Cassie was sooo in love with the stripper life that she longed to go back and see the old place after 17 years. Are you kidding me? I know this novel needed a jumping off point, but that one was a doozy.
  • I didn’t care for either Ray or Megan/Cassie as characters. Neither had the kind of qualities that I tend to root for, so I didn’t enjoy spending all that time with them or seeing them land on their feet at the end.
  • Coben uses a lot of “coincidences” in his books to keep the plot churning along, but this time they seemed thinner than usual. For example, how lucky was it that Ray just happened to snap a photo of Carlton Flynn (the most recent victim) a mere hours before Flynn disappeared? Gimme a break.
  • The Barbie and Ken team were over the top and unnecessary (given how ineffectual they actually were). One thing that remains consistently bad in Coben’s standalone books is how ridiculously cartoonish the bad guys/hired killers/enforcers always are. I hate that!

Rating:

While Stay Close isn’t Harlan Coben’s best effort, it was definitely readable. I zipped through it in just a few days and was sufficiently entertained by the content to give this one 3 stars out of 5.

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