LIVE WIRE is a bit of a departure for Harlan Coben. It does feature his mainstay character, Myron Bolitar, but we see a more personal side to him than we have in previous installments. Coben delves deeply into Myron's family background, resulting in an action-filled character study that leads to a new appreciation of him and his personality. I say this while noting that, at least up until now, Myron has not been a character with whom I have been completely emotionally invested. His constant politically correct harping, no matter how well-intended, becomes grating after a while. Coben remains on my must-read list because of his ability to tell an addictive tale that demands to be heard above the fray. Yet it is Myron's vulnerability that ultimately makes the story.
Part of the core of Myron's personality is his Messiah Complex, which causes him to jump in and save clients and friends, often whether or not they want to be helped. This is particularly true in LIVE WIRE, when a client and friend --- Suzze T, a former tennis star --- asks Myron to save her marriage. Suzze is married to Lex Ryder, another of his clients, who is the less charismatic half of a rock ‘n' roll duo that has had a long and successful run.
When a Facebook post questions the paternity of Suzze's unborn child, Lex takes off and goes into hiding. Suzze asks Myron to find Lex, a task that he does easily enough. In so doing, though, he also stumbles across his sister-in-law, Kitty. Myron has seen neither Kitty nor his brother Brad since an explosive argument over 15 years ago. Kitty is connected to the Facebook post, and everyone, from Kitty to Lex to Myron's own father, are telling Myron to back off. But he simply can't, even when Suzze turns up dead as the result of an apparent suicide.
Things go from bad to worse as Myron follows the trail to and through a brother team of mobsters, an extremely dangerous enforcer, to a secluded island where the secrets of a worshipped and reclusive rock star are finally revealed. Myron learns that at times it's best to leave things to a benign neglect. Esperanza, his operative, is there to help, even as she deals with problems of her own that are exacerbated by the assignment. Win, his business partner, is along for the wild ride as well, demonstrating that superior firepower and more money than God --- in that order --- can solve just about any problem. By the time the explosive ending occurs, almost everything has changed; while Myron retains his good and generous nature, he is, to some degree, humbled as well.
Coben sets his series up for a bit of a change in direction, with circumstances bestowing upon Myron a different set of responsibilities that will keep readers anticipating what will come next. This is never a bad idea, as breathing new life into a series, particularly before it's needed, is a wise move. It should also be noted that the book (at least indirectly) ties into SHELTER, a young adult novel to be published in September. Coben does not seem to be anywhere near running out of fresh ideas, and LIVE WIRE is full of them.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 28, 2011