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Friday, 20 July 2012

Caught by Harlan Coben

I am a relative newbie to Harlan Coben's novels. I absolutely adore the film adaptation of Tell No One, so while I was studying in France and happened across a French language copy of the book I bought it, intending that tackling a story in French would help me immerse myself in the culture. It was probably a mistake - I finished the book and kind of enjoyed it, but never quite got past that awkward stage of reading in a foreign language where you're painstakingly dissecting almost every sentence to make sure you understand exactly what's being said, despite the fact that I was living there and my spoken French was pretty much fluent (at the time! alas it has lapsed somewhat). If I'd have read it in English, I'm sure I would have really loved it. So when a copy of Caught popped up in a ReadItSwapIt swap request list I thought it was definitely time to give this author another try.

It's actually proved quite difficult for me to write a decent synopsis of this one. The plot is really quite complicated! The opening chapter follows Dan Mercer, a social worker who helps disadvantaged children, as he answers a call from a distressed teenage girl. The situation turns out to be a set-up, a sting by news reporter Wendy Tynes and her crew who are working on a project to catch paedophiles in the local community. Incriminating photos and e-mails are found on Dan's computer, and though he is never actually convicted due to a technicality, his reputation and life are ruined. But information comes to light that makes Wendy reconsider and doubt her conviction that Dan is guilty...

There is a whole lot more to this plot and at times it does feel rather convoluted. A missing girl, a vigilante father, a group of old Princeton graduates, Wendy's own struggle to come to terms with the death of her husband at the wheels of a drink driver many years ago. I enjoyed it, certainly, but there is a hell of a lot going on and it all got a bit distracting. The end of the book made me dizzy with the sheer number of twists and turns required to pull all the plot strands together! I also didn't understand why the book is split into two parts, when part two essentially carries straight on from part one. I was impressed with the conclusion as it takes real talent to tie up so many loose ends neatly without leaving any gaps or unresolved issues. OK, so it felt a little far-fetched, but was just about plausible - and who doesn't like their fiction to occasionally be a smidgen far-fetched anyway?

Sometimes with crime novels a simple concept with a simple solution can be the most powerful and surprising. That's why I enjoyed this, but didn't love it. I will definitely be reading more by Harlan Coben and might well pick up a copy of Tell No One in English next time!

How do you feel about reading books in other languages? Do you enjoy it or find it a bit stilted?

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