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

Book is done: should I throw a wrap party?

Authors react in a variety of ways to the completion of a book.

Some are at loose ends because their days and nights have been filled up with time spent working on the manuscript. Others feel empty: the plot and characters have been on their mind for so long, and now poof, they’re en route to the publisher. Multitasking authors already have a new book in mind and can jump right into it, staying busy rather than fretting about the book’s completion.

I started work on Fate’s Arrows two years ago, then got derailed for a year of cancer treatments, followed up by feeling bogged down by the virus and the nightly riots. I’m a bit of an empath and I write intuitively, so all kinds of stuff can become disruptive before a manuscript if complete.

Typical wrap party

When the production of a film is complete, cast and crew often attend a wrap party to celebrate reaching the finish line. Pat Conroy once said that a team of fifteen or more people helped with his books: editors, cover artists, book designers, fact-checkers, permissions people, publicists, etc. But, here it’s just me. Well, there is my publisher, but she lives in central Florida and probably isn’t going to meet me at the Rome, Georgia Applebee’s for a wrap party with our spouses. (I’ve urged her to buy a company jet to make traveling faster than the family car.)

I can’t very well invite the characters over since they exist in my mind and on paper. There’s probably a state law against having a party with imaginary people. In his novel The Outsider, Stephen King mentioned author Harlan Coben a number of times. Maybe Harlan came over for drinks when the book was done. Sadly, I didn’t mention either Stephen or Harlan in Fate’s Arrows. If I had, I’m sure they’d meet me at the Rome, Georgia Applebee’s. (They probably have their own planes.)

So, I’ll probably boil some water in the Dutch oven, toss in some macaroni, and fix Kraft Mac & Cheese for dinner, and tell my wife and cats, “well folks, that’s a wrap.”

Malcolm