Source: Review copy
Publication: 19th March 2020 from Century
Thirty years ago, a child was found in the New Jersey backwoods. He had been living a feral existence, with no memory of how he got there or even who he is. Everyone just calls him Wilde. Now a former soldier and security expert, he lives off the grid, shunned by the community – until they need him. A child has gone missing. With her family suspecting she’s just playing a disappearing game, nobody seems concerned except for criminal attorney Hester Crimstein. She contacts Wilde, asking him to use his unique skills to find the girl. But even he can find no trace of her. One day passes, then a second, then a third. On the fourth, a human finger shows up in the mail. And now Wilde knows this is no game. It’s a race against time to save the girl’s life – and expose the town’s dark trove of secrets…
Harlan Coben is one of those exceptional guys. Really nice when you meet him; he has a great sense of humour, is a family man and a belter of a novelist. This is a man whose books I have been reading for years and who never fails to offer interest and excitement even, like now, in the most distracting of times. Simply put, he knows how to tell a good story.
Our protagonist is Wilde, who as a young boy lived in the woods of Ramapo Mountain State Forest, N.J. foraging for himself and knowing nothing about where he came from or what his parentage is, until he was found and looked after.
Now Wilde is a grown man with a distinguished service history who is now a partner in a security firm with his ‘sister’ who was in the home he was brought up in. Wilde still lives in the woods, in an eco-pod, and he still has the restless spirit that doesn’t like to be confined in any place for too long. As a boy, alone in the woods, he had been David’s invisible best friend and that friendship stuck until David was killed in a road accident on the mountains. Now Wilde looks out for his godson, David’s son Matthew Crimstein and his mother, Laila.
Naomi Pine is ‘that girl’ at Matthew’s school. The one who isn’t popular; the one who sits alone and is bullied for the sheer affrontery of being different. When she disappears, Matthew, who likes her but has never had the courage to openly side with her, asks his grandmother Lawyer and TV personality, Hester Crimstein what can be done to find her.
Crash Maynard is the polar opposite of Naomi. He’s the cool, rich guy. His parents are documentary film makers and their friends are all involved in the movers and shakers world of celebrity, film making and politics.
When Crash goes missing, despite the Maynards top notch security, Wilde is called on for help. Have Naomi and Crash’s disappearances got something in common?
Harlan Coben’s skill is in creating vivid, memorable characters and putting them into exciting situations fraught with danger and full of secrets and lies. He takes real life and skews it just enough to have a truth based foundation for some spectacular story spinning and gosh, but it doesn’t half work well.
His understanding of social media manipulation is a brilliant expose of how to manage a reputational crisis and bend the masses to your will.
Best of all, Coben has left a distinct clue that there will be more to come from his Wilde character, and that’s great news for his millions of fans.
Verdict: Exceptional story-telling, well drawn and vivid characterisation and a fast-paced and riveting plotline carry the reader along open mouthed as layer upon layer is peeled back to reveal the truth. I needed this diversion from grim reality and now feel much better for it. Highly recommended.
Harlan is the creator and executive producer for the Netflix television dramas THE STRANGER, SAFE and THE FIVE . With over 60 million books in print worldwide, Harlan Coben’s last seven consecutive novels, MISSING YOU, SIX YEARS, STAY CLOSE, LIVE WIRE, CAUGHT, LONG LOST and HOLD TIGHT all debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and lists around the world. His books are published in 43 languages around the globe.
Coben is the winner of the Edgar Award, Shamus Award and Anthony Award – the first author to win all three – and he has received an eclectic variety of honors from all over the world. His novel TELL NO ONE has been turned into a hit French film of the same name. His essays and columns have appeared in many top publications.
Harlan was born in Newark, New Jersey. He still lives in New Jersey with his wife, Anne Armstrong-Coben MD, a pediatrician, and their four children.