In my humble opinion, Harlan Coben is the Stephen King of mystery thrillers. He is able to take old mystery ideas, like King takes old horror themes, and give them new life, He does not ignore characterization. In fact, his characters' personality and problems never take second place to the plot. And like King, he has a casual easy flowing style that hides the fact that his prose is filled with literary goodness.
But while I always enjoyed his novels, something got in the way of my urge to sing his praises. Usually it was the plotting. He has a nice hand for presenting the plot at the beginning and grabbing the reader's attention. But at the end, it seems that there are just too many pat situations and suspend-your-beliefs moments. It just seems like a little too much coincidence and not enough "I should have seen that coming".
In Harlan Coben's newest novel, Missing You, he not only solves that hurdle but writes what may be his masterpiece. In a Goldilocks world of "Not enough", "Too much", "Just right",Missing You is a poster novel of "Just Right" showing a perfect combination of chance, conspiracy, and daring-do; the things that makes a mystery novel live. Kat is a police officer who is too involved in her job. Add to that the fact that her father's killer is dying in prison and she is obsessed with finding out why he killed her father and if he killed him at all. Her best friend, in an attempt to get Kat out and socializing a bit, buys her a membership in a computer dating site. Kat is not impressed but gives it a shot, until she find her fiancee Jeff, who dumped her 18 years ago, on the site. When she contacts him he first acts like he doesn't know her and when she tells him who she is, he cuts contact with her. This would be simply annoying if not that a boy she never seen before comes to her precinct and asks her to find his mother...who disappears while she was corresponding with Jeff on the dating site.
That's a lot of information for the first few chapters and I haven't even told you about the man trapped in a box underground. But this is the strength of the author. He can effortlessly bring together enough ideas that would fill three books by anyone else. But in Missing You, he keeps it going with a string of events and psychological connections that stay believable until the tricky but effective ending. If I was teaching a class in tying together multiple ideas and plot lines, this book would be exhibit A. It doesn't hurt to have a troubled but resourceful protagonist and a wickedly evil villain. Kat is a believable heroine who flaws are noticeable along with her wisdom. One of the best things for me in the novel is the elusive character of her ex-fiancee Jeff. He is purposefully posed as an enigma during most of Coven's brilliant storytelling. We do not know who he really is, although we are given some very disturbing possibilities and a nice jolt at the end when we discover what is really going on.
If you read mysteries at all, this is a must read. It is one of the best mystery thrillers I have ever read and a big contender for best novel of the year. Go for it.