Harlan Coben is in the enviable position of having an extremely popular thriller series whose audience strongly supports his stand-alone novels as well. SIX YEARS, a momentary but nonetheless momentous break from the Myron Bolitar books, is one of his most clever and ambitious efforts to date.
It is to Coben’s credit that he never rests on his literary laurels, challenging both himself and his audience with each new work. SIX YEARS presents yet another side to his extensive and apparently inexhaustible well of talent. The narrator is Jake Fisher, a popular political science professor at a small but prestigious New England college. Six years prior to the book’s present, Jake lost Natalie, his soul mate and the love of his life. He did not lose her to catastrophe or illness; rather, she simply announced to him one day that she had become engaged to a man named Todd, a former boyfriend whose flame suddenly had been rekindled. Natalie’s final words to Jake on her wedding day were “promise me you’ll leave us alone.”
"[T]he major draws to SIX YEARS are figuring out the how and the why behind the twists, turns and deceptions to which Jake has been subjected, and finding out how everything turns out at the end."
Jake agreed and kept that promise for six years, starting with the day of Natalie’s wedding and ending when he read Todd’s obituary online. He feels, quite correctly, that if Todd is dead, then he is no longer bound by his promise. There is a major problem, though. Jake discovers that Todd has been married to someone else for lo those several years, and this person has no idea or inkling as to who Natalie is. It gets much worse. Natalie’s sister, despite seeing Jake at the wedding, denies ever meeting him. The deeper that Jake gets, the more puzzled and frustrated he becomes. The woman responsible for his first meeting with Natalie denies ever knowing him; there is no record of Natalie and Todd ever tying the knot; and the minister who married them denies having performed any such ceremony. Worst of all, nobody seems to know where Natalie is.
Jake’s best friend, who never had the chance to meet Natalie, believes that she might be a figment of his imagination. And Jake could almost be convinced of that, but for two things. The first is the receipt of a short, cryptic email that he receives from Natalie’s old email address, reminding him of his promise. The second is that two groups of people seem to think that he knows where Natalie is, and will do anything to get him to reveal her whereabouts, which is information he does not have. As Jake slowly begins to unravel the twisted puzzle that seemingly has no answer, he places himself and Natalie ever deeper into danger while discovering along the way that she may not have been the woman who he thought he knew and fell in love with.
You might guess what is going on here well before the end of the book, but there are still several points along the way where you will doubt yourself. However, the major draws to SIX YEARS are figuring out the how and the why behind the twists, turns and deceptions to which Jake has been subjected, and finding out how everything turns out at the end.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 22, 2013