Several supporters of the Harlan Coben mystery fan club have been giving me demerits simply for my asking, “Who in the world is Harlan Coben?”
Some remain speechless, while a few attack me with words that sting and chill, making me feel as if I need to shrink 3 feet or fall through a trap door.
They say things like “everybody knows he has 50 million books in print and that he’s the first master of mystery to win the three major crime fiction awards: the Edgar, Shamus and Anthony!”
Okay, I get it. Shame on me.
So I gathered what was left of my dignity and snooped around to track down Harlan Coben, no surprise, at the library. “Six Years” was the title I selected. I checked him out…
...And ever since I have wished that I had copies of all his previous works.
All I can say is please, do not wait six years, not even six months, to read this thriller. I can now understand why fans seem to be injected with so much Coben adrenaline.
Who wouldn’t be hooked at the very start: the woman Jake Fisher has loved for so long ditches him six years later. Natalie gives him a weak explanation, telling Fisher how she has fallen in love with Todd, supposedly someone who had been a former boyfriend. Fisher, a political science professor at a New England college, naturally is heartbroken and suspicious. He attends the wedding where Natalie makes him promise to not follow her and Todd, never to phone or e-mail.
It’s hard for Fisher to obey. He can’t seem to get Natalie out of his mind.He becomes absorbed with teaching and practically loses himself in the isolated world of campus life.
This is one thing I really admire about Coben’s writing. He convinces his readers that the faculty has a kind of celebratory status, yet the setting also does them a disservice in that it provides them plenty of opportunities to escape and not have to face other issues on ‘the outside’ or what is usually known as reality.
Another asset is Coben’s sarcasm and humor when he encounters hoodlums, gangsters and other bad guys who warn him to more or less mind his own business.
Eventually, Fisher’s life is on the line, and after a series of bloody battles, one wonders whether he has gone loco in his stubbornness to find Natalie. Never mind the stabbings, punches, bumps on the head and bruises. Fisher is dead set to find out what is going on. People that he once knew, close friends, even Natalie’s sister and a few fellow professors, suddenly do not recognize him and want nothing to do with him.
The clincher occurs when Fisher sees Todd’s obituary, then goes to the funeral only to discover a different woman who takes Natalie’s place.
It seems that Coben asks his readers certain questions: 1. How far would someone go to get at the truth?, and 2. Would it be worth one’s sanity to go through hell and back instead of just leaving well enough alone?
But several things are definite: there’s terrific action and daring deeds throughout “Six Years.” The bad guys just aren’t bad, they’re nasty and vindictive. Coben reveals how one person, Fisher, perseveres through and past all forms of setbacks.In the end, the real strengths evolve from the struggles of those like Fisher who put love and friendship foremost.
Carol A. Wright is a former Manhattan resident who currently works as a freelance writer.