Sometimes it seems as if Harlan Coben has been writing great books since I was in short pants. I am older than him, so I know that’s not true. But the man has been at it for quite a while, compiling an enviable and popular bibliography consisting of the Myron Bolitar series, a number of single works, and more recently the inauguration of a series aimed at young adults. When you are in someone’s home, whether it be a close friend or an acquaintance, mosey on over to their bookcase; odds are you’ll spot a Coben title or three sitting there. It is thus somewhat surprising to open his latest novel and discover after just a few pages that it is arguably his best book to date.
"MISSING YOU is full of twists and turns, even for a Harlan Coben book. Some you will see coming (or think you see coming), while others hit totally out of nowhere."
MISSING YOU is a stand-alone work with a protagonist who is nonetheless immediately familiar. We all know someone like Kat Donovan, an NYPD cop who is approaching middle age. Donovan is the latest generation of law enforcement in her family, but has made her own way not by virtue of legacy but through skill and determination. She has one major regret: some years before, she was engaged to Jeff Raynes, her soul mate, the one who got away. It takes us a while to learn why, which is only one of the mysteries with which we are confronted here. Kat re-encounters Jeff in a highly unusual way when a friend buys her a membership for an online dating service. To her surprise, Kat discovers Jeff while browsing. She messages him, but his response, though polite, is distant, and he somewhat quickly rebuffs her invitation to reconnect.
Kat is puzzled by this, and becomes doubly so when a teenager comes to her to report that his mother is missing after supposedly leaving on a vacation with Jeff, oddly enough. She initially thinks that the young man is jumping to conclusions, but out of curiosity begins a cursory investigation into his allegations. At the same time, Kat is investigating a matter that hits even closer to home. Her father, a beloved police officer, was murdered by a hit man who is dying of cancer in prison. Kat visits the thug on his deathbed, where he makes enigmatic statements concerning her father’s death. By the time the man dies, Kat isn’t entirely convinced that he killed her father. If he didn’t, who did? And why?
Meanwhile, a separate story slowly reveals itself in the narrative. A frightening tableau is unfolding on a farm in central Pennsylvania, where a number of people are being held against their will in buried coffins, being intermittently released only to be tortured until they reveal their financial information to a crew of sadistic criminals. That story slowly converges with Kat’s, as she and a missing mother’s son become uneasy allies as they seek answers to different questions that spring from the same source. All is revealed at the end, but some of the revelations are anything but pleasant.
MISSING YOU is full of twists and turns, even for a Harlan Coben book. Some you will see coming (or think you see coming), while others hit totally out of nowhere. Coben’s plot threads are extremely complex but handled quite adroitly, not to mention believably. He also leaves one issue hanging at the conclusion of the book, raising the possibility that we haven’t seen the last of Kat Donovan. Let’s hope not.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 21, 2014