Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coben (first published in 2017 by Century, an imprint of Penguin Random House)
The New York Times has called Harlan Coben “a folk poet of the suburbs”, drawing attention to the lyricism and detail of his writing and the finely wrought tensions that are intrinsic to his characters. He can do gritty and authentic.
Don’t Let Go, Coben’s second stand-alone novel (the first was Fool Me Once), is carefully plotted, entertaining, and realistic.
It contains clever twists without being gimmicky. And there’s a conspiracy theory. Yummy.
So, to the plot. It’s been 15 years since Leo Dumas and his girlfriend, Diana Styles, were killed by an oncoming train. Today, Napoleon (‘Nap’) Dumas, Leo’s twin, is a cop and that night has haunted him for years.
What were Leo and Diana doing on the train tracks to begin with? Were the deaths a tragic accident or a heart-breaking suicide pact? And where the hell is Nap’s teen love, Maura, who vanished that night and never returned?
Nap embarks on a quest for answers that only leads to more questions: about the girl he loved, the friends he thought he knew, the abandoned military base nearby, and mostly about the ill-fated Leo Dumas and Diana Styles.
Here’s a warning for the book club ladies who dislike first person: This story is a strongly first-person narrative, recounted by Nap to Leo. That’s right: the protagonist addresses his dead brother, following an engrossing storyline about how recent local murders could and probably do tie into Leo’s death.
Nap is a strange one, and he knows it. In fact, he takes pains to blend in:
"I'm friendly like that. Mr Nice Neighbor. See, I am the rarest of creatures in suburban towns - a straight, single, childless male is about as common out here as a cigarette in a health club - and so I work hard to come across as normal, boring, reliable."
As a character, Nap’s great. Unconventional, with a tendency to take the law into his own hands, and no qualms about breaking the rules from time to time.
His fellow ‘cast members’ are equally good: all fully realised people, who will have you guessing who did it until Coben’s good and ready to reveal it.
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WATCH: Book trailer - Don't Let Go