I used to spend so much time reading the classics that I tended to overlook contemporary authors altogether, but I’ve been rectifying that flaw in recent years. Along with finally discovering the joys of Harry Potter (by the time the fourth book rolled around), I’ve also had fun reading Anita Shreve, Dan Brown, John Grisham, Stephen King, and Mark Haddon. Sure, few if any of these authors will be remembered 100 years from now, but they’re definitely entertaining.
Well, now I can add Harlan Coben to my list of contemporary favorites. I just got done reading Hold Tight, which is his 17th published novel, but the first I discovered. And while this wasn’t a flawless piece of storytelling, I was drawn into the complex plot almost immediately — and I kept right on turning the pages until I finished! The last time I got this caught up in a novel was when I read The Da Vinci Code several years ago, so this is definitely not a standard reaction for me.
Plot summary (with possible spoilers): Providing a succinct summary of Hold Tight is no easy task, particularly since there are four separate plot threads that receive more or less equal time throughout the book’s pages. It seems the easiest way to tell you about the book is to give a sentence or two about what each plot entails.
The first focuses on a sadistic pair of serial killers who torture and kill women. The killers are a man and a woman, and they go to great lengths to throw the police off their trail. Though their motives are hinted at here and there, the reader for the most part is left guessing about what makes this pair tick — and how they’re choosing their victims.
The second plot deals with Tia and Mike Baye, two concerned parents who are worried about their son Adam’s suddenly erratic behavior. They don’t know if his mood swings can be chalked up to usual teenage sullenness, or if he’s up to something more dangerous. As a result, they install spying software on his computer, and end up learning more than they bargained for.
The third plot involves a school teacher named Joe Lewiston, who loses his cool for a moment, says something disparaging to 11-year-old Yasmin Novak in front of the whole class, and changes the girl’s life forever. Her classmates start teasing her so bad that her father Guy thinks he has no choice but to move away and start over.
The fourth plot traces the saga of Mike and Tia’s next-door neighbors Dante and Susan Loriman who are searching for an organ donor for their young son. Family members of course provide the best chances for a match, so when Dante’s tests show that he’s not even close to being a match, it naturally raises questions about whether or not he’s really the boy’s father.
As vastly diverse as all of these plots sound, Coben manages to weave them together so that by the end of the novel, everyone’s paths cross and the intersections are made patently clear.
My Reaction: It took me a little while to get into Hold Tight because there are so many different characters to keep track of — and it didn’t help that only a few of the characters actually had distinct personalities. I actually had to jot down their names and relationships in a notebook so I could refer to it while I was reading. But once I got the hang of who everyone was and what they were doing, I started to enjoy the book a lot more.
The first thing that really stood out about Hold Tight was the way Coben refers to all kinds of modern technology and websites. Facebook, MySpace, Blackberry Pearl, spyware, IM, cell phones with GPS… for some reason, it was kind of a trip to see all of these things mentioned in a book. Hey, like I said before, I usually read older stuff, so this was definitely new for me!
Coben did a fantastic job of balancing all the different plots. This kept things moving along at a great clip, and prevented me from getting bored at any time during the read. Yes, all of these different stories were overwhelming at first, but once I got into the book, I could keep track of things fairly easily.
Of course, I have to talk a little bit about how Coben tied everything together. Were the connections flimsy? Were they based on extreme coincidence and almost unbelievable circumstances? Absolutely. This did have some impact on my overall enjoyment of the book, but not much. None of the author’s transgressions were inexcusable.
On the whole, I was very impressed by Hold Tight. So much so, in fact, that I jumped right into another Coben book as soon as I finished this one! Expect my review of Deal Breaker to go up in the next few days.