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Friday, 25 July 2014

FFB - The Woods

Harlan Coben is a quite prolific mystery-suspense writer. He became popular and won crime-writing prizes for a series of novels about Myron Bolitar, a sports agent turned amateur detective. Then he broke out into stand-alone novels with Tell no one and is more or less guaranteed to get his new book onto the bestseller lists.

The Woods (2007) was Coben's fourteenth novel and it is an uninspiring title for a riveting page-turning book. Paul Copeland, Cope to his friends and colleagues, is a county prosecutor in New Jersey. Shortly after his beloved father’s demise, he’s involved in a particularly nasty rape case. Cope is used to coping, since his wife died and he’s busy raising his six-year-old daughter alone. Grief is not unknown territory for him, either. His sister Camille was one of four teenagers murdered in the woods of a holiday camp facility twenty years ago.

Professor Lucy Gold is troubled by an imaginative essay that is handed in to her. Its writer is anonymous. The words conjure up events from her past, a past she has striven to forget for twenty years.

Coben has employed first person and third person narrative in the same novel before, and it works to good effect here too. We can empathise with Cope while also glimpsing what’s going on outside his own purview. 

When a homicide victim turns up with curious links to Cope, a number of well-buried secrets from Cope’s past start to break the surface. The writing is spare and slick, ensuring that you want to read on as twist follows twist. The woods are a metaphor for Cope’s journey into understanding. It’s about responsibility, and honesty and facing up to problems rather than running away. The past always has a knack of catching up, especially in Harlan Coben’s novels!

If this is your first Coben, you’ll enjoy it and come back for more. If you’ve read his books before, you know what to expect and you may just be one step ahead of the revelations as they pile up, but you’ll still finish the book well satisfied. 

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