May 25, 13.38pm
A long wait always heightens expectations, and its been seven years since the last time Myron Bolitar graced a novel. That was Darkest Fear, at the end of which Myron retired from the heroism and rescuing industry.
In the acknowledgements at the end of Promise Me, the eighth Myron outing, Harlan Coben admits that one of the most frequently asked questions to him by fans had been when Myron might return.
As one of those who had asked him - at a book signing in London four years ago - I was thrilled to see Myron back and particularly delighted that this book strongly hints that the sports agent/private eye/hero might be back in the rescuing business.
In the seven years since he has been away a lot ahs changed for Myron: his parents have moved to Florida; he has a full-time girlfriend; and his business - MB Reps - has added clients from the entertainment industry to its roster of ball players.
A lot of this is incidental to the plot, however, as it is a friend of Myron's rather than a client who needs help in this instance.
After promising the daughter of a close friend that he would be on hand to offer her help should she ever need it, Myron is called out in the middle of the night to pick Aimee Biel up in midtown Manhattan. Against his better judgment Myron drops her at an address he doesn't know in suburban New Jersey. Within 24 hours she is reported missing - possibly the victim of a serial kidnapper.
Racked by guilt, Myron comes out of retirement and engages in a manhunt that brings him into contact with the usual cast of destructive characters: cross-dressing muscle, a psychotic hitman, a 300-lb giant dressed in white spandex. And those are Myron friends.
Promise Me is fascinating because it is partly rooted in everyday middle class anxieties - are my children having sex/doing drugs/going to get into college? Is my husband having an affair? Do I need more botox? - and partly based in a New Jersey made famous by Tony Soprano.
Myron straddles both places delicately, trying to come to terms with a future that might involve commitment and step-children at the same time as visiting S&M clubs with Big Cyndi and fruit loop best friend Windsor Lockwood III.
For about 330 pages this is a great thriller, with a fascinating cast of characters, a convincing plot and great speed. It is also illuminated throughout by Coben's witty and conversational style and all-round great writing.
But right at the very end, the book seems to slip away as the ending accelerates towards a somewhat muted and strange conclusion that jars a little against what went before.
Nonetheless, that will do little to change the opinions of those who regard Coben as one of the great thriller writers of this era, and it should also bring Myron to the new audience that Coben picked up with Tell No One, Gone for Good and others.
Flesh and Blood by Jack Harvey (p36)
Pelagia and the White Bulldog (p184)