Monday, April 24, 2017

Review of "Stay Close" by Harlan Coben




Seventeen years ago, in Atlantic City, Stewart Green disappeared, an event which profoundly affected the lives of several people: Green's wife was devastated and the lead cop in the investigation, Detective Broom - who befriended Mrs. Green - is still obsessed with the case; Cassie, an entertainer at a club named La Crème who was involved with Green, gave up her old life, changed her name to Megan, and became a suburban wife and mother; and Ray Levine, Cassie's boyfriend at the time, became an alcoholic with a shameful (in his eyes) job as a fake papparazzi.

Now, seventeen years later another man, Carlton Flynn, disappears from Atlantic City in similar circumstances. Unfortunately for Megan she chooses this time to revisit her old haunt, La Crème, where she's recognized by a former friend, the bartender Lorraine. As events unfold this pulls Megan into the police investigation of Carlton's disappearance - and as it turns out - the disappearance of several other men. This upsets Megan life since she's desperate to hide her former identity from her husband.

Meanwhile, Carlton's father, a wealthy developer who distrusts the cops, hires a pair of psychopaths - blonde and beautiful Ken and Barbie - to find out what happened to Carlton. This horrific pair love inflicting pain and go on a torture spree to get information, an endeavor aided by a corrupt cop.

Eventually, using informaton provided by Megan, Ray, and others, the police are able to figure out what's going on, but the solution is not satisfying or believable. Moreover, it was difficult (for me) to reconcile what happened to Green with the very profound changes in the lives of the main characters. Green was an abusive and unpleasant guy and it seemed to me that everyone was better off with him gone.

I'm a Harlen Coben fan but I was disappointed with this book. Ken and Barbie are so over-the-top that they seem like cartoons. Other characters, like Ray and Megan, are so self-involved that they're hard to care about. And the story is overly convoluted and doesn't quite gel. I was actually wondering if Coben had a co-writer since this book seemed so different from his usual style and quality.  

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