Harlan Coben has been at this for a while, now. He was good, maybe great, right out of the gate, and over the course of eight books he has garnered a mantleful of awards --- a trifecta, actually, with the Edgar, The Shamus, and The Anthony --- getting better and better with each successive novel. As good as books such as ONE FALSE MOVE and TELL NO ONE were, however, there was always the feeling that he was just warming up, that his best work was ahead of him. With the publication of GONE FOR GOOD, it can be announced that he if he hasn't reached "best," he's rounding third and more than halfway home. With GONE FOR GOOD, Coben aims for the moon and stars and hits his targets, every one.
Reading GONE FOR GOOD is like playing one of those role-playing video games for the first time sans a guidebook or a 13-year-old who can warn you what's coming. You never know. Its protagonist is Will Klein, younger brother to Ken. Eleven years prior to the events described in GONE FOR GOOD, Will's ex-girlfriend was found raped and murdered in her basement. Ken was the prime suspect; he vanished, seemingly, into thin air. Will has never given up on the premise that his brother is innocent and still alive. He discovers, on the death of their mother, that Ken is indeed alive.
When Will is suddenly and abruptly deserted by his current girlfriend, she leaves behind evidence that she is not at all the person he thought she was --- and that she may somehow be connected, however improbably, to Ken. Ken's disappearance, and apparent reappearance, are also connected to a couple of friends from high school, one of whom is a low-profile but highly placed organized crime figure. The other is a mysterious, deadly figure known as The Ghost --- a frightening character who is unbalanced and unstoppable. Will is caught between these acquaintances from his brother's past and an FBI agent who is motivated as much by revenge as by a desire to see justice done, while at the same time wanting to solve the mystery of his girlfriend's mysterious, abrupt disappearance.
Coben, along the way, constantly keeps the reader guessing. The reader knows only what Will Klein knows --- and everything Will knows is wrong. Surprises and shocks are scattered throughout GONE FOR GOOD, from the beginning to the final paragraph; the biggest mistake that readers can make with this novel is to believe that they know what is happening and what will occur.
GONE FOR GOOD may well make you forget any other suspense novel that you read this year. Coben's plotting and timing in GONE FOR GOOD is absolutely unsurpassed. You'll never forget GONE FOR GOOD and you'll never, ever forget The Ghost. With GONE FOR GOOD, Coben delivers on the promise made in earlier novels and will be added to the "must read" list of a new legion of readers.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 4, 2003