Harlan Coben, Author
Harlan Coben, Author . Delacorte $23.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-385-33558-4
Reviewed on: 04/01/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002

"We never forget our first love. Mine ended up being murdered." Newcomers and fans alike will know they're deep in Coben country with the author's ninth book, in which a counselor of runaways with his own history of broken hearts and death finds himself caught in a web of lost identities, forgotten nemeses and smoldering grudges. Will Klein was a nice Jewish boy from a nice Jersey suburb until his ex-girlfriend was found strangled next door and his brother became an international fugitive. Eleven years later, as his mother succumbs to cancer, Will gets the deathbed confession that his brother, Ken, is alive; around the same time, his girlfriend, Sheila (herself a runaway with a "murky past"), disappears and a neighborhood psycho called the Ghost resurfaces. Will is yanked into an FBI investigation via his friend Squares (a yogi whose forehead tattoo carries multiple meanings), which jumbles up the aforementioned cast of characters with another mystery occurring in the Midwest. True to form, Coben keeps the plot twists coming fast and furious, and readers will give up trying to guess the outcome quite early on; yet the book's entertainment value lies less in its plot than its characters. From the New York streetwalker Raquel ("Many transvestites are beautiful. Raquel was not. He was black, six-six, and comfortably on the north side of three hundred pounds") to Belmont, Neb.'s Sheriff Bertha Farrow ("Murder scenes were bad, but for overall vomit-inducing, bone-crunching, head-splitting, blood-splattering grossness, it was hard to beat the metal-against-flesh effect of an old-fashioned automobile accident"), this title delivers. (Apr.)

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