In Harlan Coben’s latest, Jake had watched the love of his life, Natalie, marry another man Six Years earlier. She made him promise to leave her alone and never contact her. He kept that promise, until he sees the obituary of her husband and goes to the funeral. Problem is, the dead man’s wife is not Natalie, and no one there seems to know who she is.
When Jake retraces his and Natalie’s steps from the summer of their love affair, everyone—from the owner of their favorite cafe to Natalie’s sister—denies knowing anything, or him. The artists’ retreat where Jake and Natalie met doesn’t seem to exist, and local cops get hostile when he asks about it. What happened to Natalie? Jake is hell-bent on finding her because he can’t live without her, but if he doesn’t stop looking for her, he may get her killed.
The story is well-paced and entertaining enough, but if you’ve read Coben’s previous books, you may recognize several familiar elements: the protag receiving a message (via video/call/e-mail/Facebook) from or about someone (usually a woman) who’s been missing/thought dead, an integral character who’s a doctor, a charity being involved somehow, the lead character flirting with women to get info/favors. Jake is also interchangeable with many of the leading men in Coben’s former standalones.
The plot is reliably twisty, but when a character who’s been fastidious for years about covering his/her tracks—because the person’s life depends on it—suddenly gets sloppy and leaves behind a huge clue via GPS, I thought it was a joke or a trap. Readers new to the author will probably enjoy this intro to his work, but longtime fans might feel, unlike what everyone tells Jake, that they have seen some of this before.
Nerd verdict: Familiar Years