Harlan Coben’s thriller Hold Tight (2008) is up to his usual standard of convoluted mysteries that hold tight onto the reader, willing them to turn the pages.
It isn’t great writing from a literary standpoint, but it is virtually unputdownable.
Briefly, Tia and Mike Baye have two children, Jill, 11 and Adam, 16. They’re busy professionals. Then shortly after one of Adam’s friends, Spencer Hill commits suicide, their son Adam goes missing. These events may be connected.
Their lives are unknowingly linked to several other characters as the events unfold. There’s Nash, a psychologically damaged widower and his zombie-like helper, Pietra. Nash wants something badly and is willing to inflict pain and ultimately a gory death on those who obstruct him.
Chief Investigator Loren Muse has to combat a resentful subordinate and solve the death of a woman whose face has been battered beyond recognition.
Betsy and Ron Hill are reeling from the suicide of their son, and they’re growing apart, unable to offer comfort or answers.
Susan and Dante Loriman are neighbours of the Baye family; their son is dying but could be saved if the correct blood-type person can be found.
Over a few days we get to know all these people, their troubles and their broken dreams. Cleverly, Coben slowly establishes links. Even at the end, when a bloody resolution is disclosed, there is one final little twist to reveal.
The title Hold Tight stems from a time of remembrance: ‘Mike remembered now sitting in the coaster, waiting for that ride to start, heart pumping. He turned to Adam, who gave him a crooked smile and said, “Hold tight,” and then, right then, he flashed back more than a decade, when Adam was four and they were at this same park and there was a crush of people entering the stuntman show, a total crush, and Mike held his son’s hand and told him to “hold tight”, and he could feel the little hand dig into his, but the crush got bigger and the little hand slipped from his and Mike felt that horrible panic, as if a wave hit them at the beach and it was washing his baby out with the tide. The separation last only a few seconds, ten at the most, but Mike would never forget the spike in his blood pressure and the terror of those few brief moments.’ (p98)
Of course the Bayes wanted to hold tight to their children, yet they must grow up and eventually make their own way. How to do it was the problem. Freedom with safety. Not possible. A number of moral dilemmas are presented.
Coben uses sparse description, but when he deploys it, you notice: ‘The area would be kindly described as seedy. There were more windows boarded up than containing anything resembling the glass family.’ (p131) And ‘The women… wore outfits that were so sheer they seemed more like sausage casing than clothing.’ (p134)
Definitely one of those books you won’t want to put down until you’ve finished it. A satisfying thriller.
A continuity glitch occurred. On p24 ‘In the corridor Tia stopped and took out her mobile phone.’ Fine, but then she didn’t do anything with it. And on the next page , she ‘took out her cell phone and put in…’ Intrigued how the cell phone became a mobile phone; as if an English editor put that in.
On p54 ‘she could barely get the mouse on the image.’ Here, it should be the cursor, not the mouse.