***This is a review of an upcoming release. This title is scheduled to be released on March 15, 2022.***
I picked up a Harlan Coben book on a whim sometime in the summer of 2005. I was early for a doctor appointment, and there was a Borders—a Borders!—across the street, so I popped in and Just One Look was sitting there in a paperback ‘new releases’ display.
I still think that Just One Look is one of Coben’s best standalones.
But I have been a fan since that day…or maybe the next day, since that’s when I finished that freight train of a book.
My point is that I am a pretty big fan of Mr. C, and have been for a decade and a half. So I was really looking forward to this book—and when I got approved for the #ARC, well, it would not be an exaggeration to say that there was some squeeing.
From the modern master of suspense comes a gripping new thriller in which Wilde follows a tip that may finally reveal the truth behind his abandonment . . . Only to end up in the sights of a ruthless killer.
After months away, Wilde has returned to the Ramapo Mountains in the wake of a failed bid at domesticity that confirms what he's known all along: He belongs on his own, free from the comforts and constraints of modern life.
Suddenly, a DNA match on an online ancestry database brings Wilde closer to his past than he's ever dreamed, and finally gives Wilde the opening he needs to track down his father. But meeting the man leads to more questions than answers. So Wilde reaches out to hi s last, most desperate lead, a second cousin who disappears as quickly as he resurfaces, having experienced an epic fall from grace that can only be described as a waking nightmare.
Was his cousin's downfall a long time coming? Or was he the victim of a conspiracy as cunning as it is complex? And how does it all connect to the man once known as The Stranger, a dangerous fugitive with a growing following whose mission and methods have only turned more dangerous with time?
This book is a direct sequel to 2020’s The Boy From The Woods, and follows Wilde, the titular boy from the woods as he navigates the increasing complexity of his relationships with his late best-friend Daniel’s family. He is godfather to Daniel’s son, a surrogate son to Daniel’s mother, famed attorney Hester Crimstein, and reluctantly in love with Daniel’s widow, Laila.
Things get even more complicated when Wilde gets a DNA hit from one of those “23 and Me” sites, and jets off to confront the father he never knew, inadvertently setting off a chain of events that will explode almost everything he thought he knew about himself.
This is a tight thriller, with the propulsive action that I have come to expect from Coben. There are hidden agendas, federal agents who are not at all forthcoming, and a shady cabal of bad guys whose motives shift with the wind. Add to that the ever-evolving nature of Wilde’s relationships with both his chosen family and his newly-discovered genetic family and there is something going on on every page.
However, some of the things that were going on were a little confusing. I am a pretty smart cookie and I could not keep the players straight. The DNA stuff was especially taxing—The mental gymnastics I had to do to figure out how everyone was related in this book finally led me to give up and just draw a family tree, presented all blurred out for your spoiler-free amusement:
I loved getting to know Wilde better, and found his desperate search for his own family believable. It’s not that Wilde doesn’t love his godson, and Hester and Laila…but it is that he views all of them as uniquely Daniel’s…and Wilde longs for someone to call uniquely his. How this resolves is satisfying, if a little open-ended.
There are other mystery trails that are left hanging, which I hope points toward a third book. I think that Wilde is a compelling protagonist, and I’d love to follow his story further. Highly recommend for mystery/thriller lovers who don’t shy away from a complicated plot.