Mystery, murder, thriller, plot twists, accidents; these words are hard to get right when it comes to fiction. A writer may very much write a crime scene, but, whether that scene intrigues the reader enough depends on how well the writer pens it down. Many will put the book down if they do not feel the thrill at all!
The world of fiction is a getaway from real life, an unforgettable experience. Give your reader that, and they’ll always come back for more.
Harlan Coben is one such author, whose books bring mystery to life; a magnet for those who unwind with thrillers. Therefore, this article is for all those who crave such mystery and for those who are looking to discover a new genre. Honestly, it is for everyone who wishes to read. Here’s a little treat; we have enlisted Top Harlan Coben books to get you started.
But before, we carry on with the list; a little introduction to the esteemed author is due.
Harlan Coben was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey. He went to Livingston High School and went on major in Political Science from Amherst College. His love for writing bloomed up in college where he befriended future writers like Dan Brown. Not wasting a minute of his time, Coben had his first book, ‘Play Dead’; published at the age of 26 (He is not very fond of this book though). Gladly, he hasn’t stopped since.
Since 1995 with ‘Deal Breaker’ being published, Harlan Coben has managed to pretty much become an expert in the genre with both series and standalone books; which are loved by both readers and critics alike, winning him many accolades in his name. He is thereby the first author from the genre to have three prestigious awards, namely; an Anthony Award, Shamus Award, and the Edgar reward. At present, he continues to write, both novels and op-ed articles for the New York Times. He is New York Times bestselling author!
Now let us move on to reviewing his work. Surely, an author of such acclaim would have done some impeccable work, and a lot of it too, which is why it would have been a mammoth of a task to review every single of his masterpieces, henceforth, we are going to stick to only the top ten books by harlan couben. Keep in mind, these top ten lists are as per the ranking of each book and may not be your top ten. (if you’ve read Coben’s work, or when you read it)
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10. Tell No One (2001)
Tell No One is Coben’s first standalone book and somewhat a very popular favorite amongst the genre; romance suspense. It’s a tale of a married couple, Dr. David Beck and Elizabeth Parker, who is separated by an unfortunate incident, with the latter claimed as dead. Coben, however, sets the tale in an 8-year gap and follows Beck’s story of how he unveils the events of the night he was separated from his wife, after receiving a suspicious email.
Harlan Coben takes on a narrative style, shifting between the first and third person to move Dr. Beck ahead in his emotional yet enthralling journey through his loss. Coben’s words did leave a mark as the novel was later adapted to a feature film in 2006.
9. Gone for Good (2002)
As the title suggests, Gone for Good is a brother finding out why his brother vanishing was rather a blessing. Will Klein admire his brother Ken Klein. He idolizes him. Then one day, Ken’s girlfriend is found dead and since all pieces of evidence point to Ken, he simply vanishes. Eleven years later, Will finds out through another loss that his brother is alive, and that he may be linked to many more crimes than just murder.
Harlan Coben is a fan of timelines and complex relationships. Through Will, he reveals his expertise on conflicting emotions of a character as well. Will goes from thinking of his brother as a hero to suddenly finding out about his truth and years later partaking in an FBI investigation to lift the final curtains. Through Will, Coben also shows his fans that he is not afraid to shatter the stereotypical happy endings and that real endings aren’t always happy.
8. The Woods (2007)
A summer camp. Four teenagers. Lost. Bodies. Serial killer.
All the right keywords for the genre. The Woods is the nail-biting mystery of four teenagers who disappear at a summer camp. Out of these four, two are found dead while the remaining two are missing. Then, Paul Copeland comes into play. He is the prosecutor of Essex County and also the brother of one of the missing girls. The novel follows Paul’s journey as he uncovers the clues of his sister’s disappearance and unveils many untold truths about the camp itself.
7. Caught (2010)
Harlan Coben is a master of words. By simply choosing the correct words, the author has managed his way with his audience so far. For any author, this is the most important thing to master. Coben has done exactly that. Caught, from its name sounds like a plain encounter story, however, in this word are weaved many layers of the mystery which Coben sets in the disappearance of the 17-year-old Haley McWaid, and then traced by New Jersey’s Policewoman Wendy Tynes. A suspicious disappearance, a sexual predator, a controversial journalist; all form part of Coben’s crime thriller, the correct recipe for the plot that he wants to deliver.
Follow Wendy Tynes, as she uncovers the links between Haley’s disappearance with Dan Mercer (a sexual predator), whilst finding out how lost teenagers often become the victim of such monsters. A scandalous but serious read, Caught is, therefore, a must read!
6. Hold Tight (2008)
With Hold Tight, Coben enters the realm of the modern-day digital world as well through Tia and Mike Baye, who are forced to spy on their son, Adam, through his computer, after his classmate commits suicide and the latter becomes distant. It is by the spy program that they discover a message ordering Adam to be silent. Simultaneously, Betsy Hill, Spencer Hill (who committed suicide)’s mother finds that her son’s death may be more than suicide.
Coben has set this novel in a very complicated set of marriage, family, and parenthood. He asks instilling questions from his audience, where does draw the line in parenthood? With this Harlan Coben shows the grip he has on his art how through fiction can a very serious issue be brought to light.
5. Fool Me Once (2016)
Captain Maya Stern Burkett’s life is a tragedy. Her career as a U.S Army helicopter pilot ends due to operational mistakes, she is forced to take a sabbatical, and then her husband is shot dead in front of her. She has to deal with life after such shocks. Harlan Coben takes his readers on a trip in Maya’s life, intriguing them as he brings Maya in face of a mystery as her husband makes a reappearance, caught in her nanny’s cam. How can a man be caught by a camera when NYPD declared him dead two weeks earlier?
Find out what else lies in the life of Captain Maya, as she continues to face barriers in her life as she looks for clarity and peace with her daughter. Trust Coben to take you on this ride well!
4. Stay Close (2012)
Unhappy, dissatisfied, and stuck in a routine. This is how you describe Coben’s characters; photographer Ray Levine; housewife Megan Pierce; and Detective Broome, in his novel, Stay Close. The one more thing that is common to all three of them; is that they all remain agitated by the disappearance of Stewart Greens, which took place 17 years before the setting of the story. Another disappearance on the same date as Greens lights the sparks of their curiosity on fire and what follows is a story full of wit and irony with smoldering and scandalous entries like Ken and Barbie. Coben’s mystery senses are at peak with this novel and his expertise shines through.
‘Looks can be deceiving, is a common metaphor. Watch it get revamped with Coben’s characters and excellent use of the English language.
3. No Second Chance (2004)
Mark Seidman, a plastic surgeon, gets the shock of his life when he wakes up in a hospital bed himself, alone, only to find out that he has been stabbed, his wife is killed and his daughter, kidnapped. The stuff of a nightmare. Mark’s story unfolds when he gets a message dissuading him from going to the authorities if he is to ever see his daughter again. No Second Chance is his story on his search for his missing daughter, mired in the shackles of secrets, betrayals, and loss, Coben stirs a touch of tragedy to his thriller. Seidman’s journey is an emotional ride, while, Coben’s journey as an author is a laudable one. Through tone shifts, Harlan Coben has managed to deliver a remarkable performance that will be hard to put down once you read the first page.
It is what it is; Coben’s writing is aging like fine wine!
2. Just One Look (2004)
Just One Look is one of its kind when it comes to Harlan Coben’s work. Usually, Coben’s characters tend to disappear from the beginning, followed by a search party in the main storyline. However, in Just One Look, the character disappears as part of the main storyline, within the present setting.
Grace Lawson is a mom of two, who after picking up her children from school, develops old photo reels. A mysterious photo of her husband with four other men, whom she hasn’t met, catches her eye. Upon showing it to her husband, Jack, the latter leaves the house and disappears. The novel is then a nail-biting, glass-shattering tale of how Grace must go find her husband, and save her family while uncovering the past and steering clear of the path of a serial killer, who is equally interested in finding out the truth behind the photo as is Grace.
By now, I do not think that there are enough phrases to commend Harlan Coben.
You will want to comfort Grace and you will want to stick with her to the end!
1. Deal Breaker (2006)
Myron Bolitar. Coben’s star. The hero that gave Coben his series. Deal Breaker is just part of that. Myron Bolitar is a sports agent who deals with rich clients, clients who carry a pretty face. Christian Steele is just one of these clients, a quarterback. Christian’s fate gets tested when his afore claimed dead girlfriend contacts him again. Not only is his prized client in danger, but Myron is also brought face to face with the dark side of his field, where, behind the façade of the money lies ugly truths, truths that can get you killed!
Coben shows how deep his grip is on his work with Myron. Myron is a hotheaded but softhearted sports agent who is unpredictable and hence the most appealing to those who look for drama in mystery.
The thrill is real!
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The list could go on, honestly, the more books the merrier. But, right now this shall do. If you crave good mystery, a character in shadows, controversial pasts, then dear readers, Harlan Coben books should be your foremost choices. He will not disappoint.
For now; Happy Reading!