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Book Review: Hold Tight by Harlan Coben

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I enjoy Harlan Coben’s work a lot. I’ve been reading him for years. The Myron Bolitar novels remind me a lot of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series, and I love Myron’s sidekick, Win – one of the deadliest, coldest guys in the room.

When Coben shelved the Bolitar series, temporarily, and started doing the stand-alone thrillers, I wasn’t too keen on the idea. However, Tell No One made an instant believer of me and introduced me to another side of the author’s bag of tricks. Nobody writes thrillers like Coben does.

Except Coben himself. He’s written other novels in a similar vein, all with vicious little twists. Which is a problem only if you’ve gotten to looking for those twists and have stopped believing in what the author is doing. Most of those plot zingers require the reader to not be looking for them. Admittedly, I have been.

But just when I’d become wary of Coben’s writing style and got harder to fool, he changes his writing yet again in Hold Tight. Coben dives deeply into the parental pool in this novel, bringing up and discussing all the myriad questions parents have to deal with on a daily basis when it comes to protecting and guiding children. How much supervision is too much? How much is too little? How does a parent control what information a child receives about sex, drugs, and rock and roll when that information is out there on the street? And next door?

Coben is a caring parent. I understood that by reading between the lines. His previous books show that as well. I met him once at a BoucherCon. He’s an entertaining and giving guy, the kind of author readers love to meet.

During the course of the novel, Coben also takes his readers on a tour de force of the software that’s available out there to help watch over your child. I have to admit, I thought a lot of it was really invasive and would never do it. However, just how far would you go as a parent to protect your child? That question keeps bouncing back through the frantic course of the novel. Every time I thought I had an answer, Coben threw something else at me till I didn’t know what I would do.

Much of the action centers around the Baye family. Mike and Tia are a doctor and lawyer respectively. They’re educated and caring people. However, their teenage son has become something of a concern to them: he’s moody and withdrawn. Compounding those normal worries that plague parents through a child’s adolescence is the fact that Adam’s best friend recently committed suicide. Mike and Tia are understandably concerned.

As a result of the breakdown in communication, Tia talks Mike into putting spyware on Adam’s computer. That eventually triggers a landslide of no-return regarding their relationships. Adam goes missing, and the parents frantically try to find him. That same night, Mike is beaten and almost killed in an alley while trying to follow the son of a local policeman and one of Adam’s school buddies.

But that’s just the main plot. Coben introduces a lot of other characters with equally compelling storylines, and none of them seem to really touch on each other. When they do, and Coben pulls them together nicely, it’s amazing how much a community actually impinges on each other without knowing it – especially when they have kids.

I was dazzled by the intricacy of the plot in the end, but I literally had to keep a scorecard to remember who was doing what to whom. Coben is an excellent writer when building character, but there were just so many of them in this novel that I felt overwhelmed at times. There's also a tie back to Coben's previous novel, The Woods, when some of those characters reappear in this book.

Hold Tight is an excellent novel, though. It provides sleek writing that will take you out of your everyday world (though by exposing you to your worst fears if you’re a parent), thought-provoking subtext, and a story that will impact you for a long time afterwards. This is one you’re going to want to read, think about, and talk to other readers about.

About Mel Odom