Tuesday, March 08, 2011

CAUGHT by Harlan Coben (2010) Penguin Canada, 388 pages

High school senior Haley McWaid is a model student, sister and daughter, but when she doesn't return home one night, her parents are right to worry in earnest. Reporter Wendy Tynes is on a mission to identify and confront sexual predators through her nationally televised program Caught in the Act . Dan Mercer is a divorced middle-aged man who works with troubled teens. Their three paths cross unexpectedly and the result is enough to tear a community apart.

With what I have come to regard as trademark intelligence and tension, Harlan Coben has the courage to inhabit each character convincingly so you are kept just enough off balance to second guess yourself about who the actual villains/victims are. Some are obvious, but others are not. Criminal Defense Attorney Hester Crimstein returns in CAUGHT and she is as irascible and sharp-tongued as ever. She will never suffer fools gladly, even if that fool is her own client.

Having read many of Coben's crime novels by now, I continue to be amused by his ability to weave social networking into his plot, so that it is not only a plot device and a tether to our real world, but also a character itself. Here he reminds us how easy it is to fake cyber identities on Facebook and blogs wherein damaging rumours are handily perpetuated.

What I like most about Coben's stories, though, is how he leaves room for the possibility of forgiveness and redemption. As Leonard Cohen wrote, "there is a crack, a crack in everything/ that's how the light gets in."

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