Review: ‘The Boy from the Woods,’ by Harlan Coben

I read a variety of black ops/thriller books that I generally refer to as “grocery store books” because that’s where I see them while buying milk, bread, eggs, and inexpensive wine. I know my definition is unfair because, frankly, if an author’s books are on grocery store shelves, they’re usually compelling, well-written, bestselling books. Coben’s books fit all three of those categories.

Publisher’s Description: Thirty years ago, Wilde was found as a boy living feral in the woods, with no memory of his past. Now an adult, he still doesn’t know where he comes from, and another child has gone missing.

No one seems to take Naomi Pine’s disappearance seriously, not even her father—with one exception. Hester Crimstein, a television criminal attorney, knows through her grandson that Naomi was relentlessly bullied at school. Hester asks Wilde—with whom she shares a tragic connection—to use his unique skills to help find Naomi.

Wilde can’t ignore an outcast in trouble, but in order to find Naomi he must venture back into the community where he has never fit in, a place where the powerful are protected even when they harbor secrets that could destroy the lives of millions . . . secrets that Wilde must uncover before it’s too late.

Wilde is an interesting character who will subsequently appear in a second book in the series called The Match. He lives off the grid and becomes uncomfortable if he has to come into the city too often. But he has some handy black ops skills and some very strategic common sense when it comes to solving things that aren’t what they seem.

This works well in The Boy from the Woods since most of the crimes and other strange events aren’t what they seem. The reader can only think that everyone except Wilde is probably lying. Fortunately, Wilde has some high-powered friends who believe in his abilities. That’s good, for this plot is so tangled up that even Sherlock Holmes might be tempted to say, “Watson, this time, I don’t have a clue.”

If you like thrillers, this book will probably appeal to you. You certainly won’t be bored. You might even condone the dash of schmaltz in the ending.

Malcolm