Harlan Coben’s latest novel returns to his original character, Myron Bolitar the sports agent, and his associates Win, Esperanza (a.k.a. Little Pochahontas) and Big Cyndi. However, in Long Lost any association with sports, a standard feature of the earlier novels, is dropped, and instead the story is a trendy thriller covering international, post-9/11 terrorism, stem cells, lost loves and water-boarding torture, with a quick tour of Paris and London from a decidedly American perspective.
The reviews to date of Long Lost have not been kind, and I can understand why. One has to admit it is a bit of a lazy book. However, Harlan Coben is nothing if not a great story-teller, and anyone who wants an undemanding but exciting aeroplane or beach read will not be disappointed by spending an afternoon reading this novel. The author is bang up to the minute with his BlackBerries, Google maps and blogs, even if his knowledge of science is a bit sketchy – John Wyndham could certainly give him a run for his money in that regard.
The plot of Long Lost is a bit of a see-saw. In a classic Coben hook, Myron is contacted at the start of the book by his ex-lover Terese Collins, whom he has not seen for some years since running away with her to a tropical island and then splitting, begging him to come to Paris to meet her. Myron has found happiness in a previous novel with “9/11 widow” (as she is called) Ali, but that relationship is now on the rocks so Myron obligingly takes a flight to France and meets Terese. Before she can tell him much more than the bare fact that her ex-husband Rick, an investigative journalist, has been murdered, Myron is on the run from an assortment of French police, Mossad agents and Arab terrorists.
I won’t summarise more of the plot here. Suffice to say that it’s a full inventory of contemporary themes and anxieties, but even if one is being generous, an illogical mish-mash. (The scene in a London (Camberwell) pub is particularly risible.) This is one of those books where the reader just has to decide whether to go along for the ride, or whether to close the covers in disgust and move on to something more believable. I opted to read the whole thing, and enjoyed it, particularly the ending – which I found quite surprising, as in most Harlan Coben novels the ending is weaker than the lead-up.
If you’ve read all the Coben novels up to now, you’ll know what to expect and you’ll probably enjoy this one, though it certainly isn’t one of his best. If you haven’t read him, I suggest either reading one of his classic standalones (Tell No One, for example, which has been made into an excellent French film) or the first Myron Bolitar book, in which the author takes a bit more care with his characters and works a bit harder to keep the reader on board.
Thanks to the ever-generous Karen of Euro Crime for my copy of Long Lost, which whiled away a very happy couple of hours on a sunny Saturday afternoon. It certainly beats doing the ironing and weeding the garden.