Top critical review
26 people found this helpful
A Murder and Mayhem Bookclub review
on 25 May 2007
Paul "Cope" Copeland has more than a few monkeys riding on his back. Not all of them relate to his past; his chosen career of county prosecutor doesn't always make him everyone's best friend and there are always going to be those that take offense to his stance in the court room. There has been a lot to overcome for Cope and he questions whether he is really holding his head about water every day. A single parent, Cope has to rely heavily on the family of his deceased wife to look after his six year old daughter when his job goes crazy, and it frequently does. This isn't always comfortable, but it has been necessary.
Taking the case to prosecute two teenage "party" rapists, Cope is aware that his client isn't the type to wring the tears out of the jurors when she is up there on the stand. The father of one of the accused is the local big man about town, not at all happy with Cope's decision to pursue criminal charges against his son. A little pressure here, a few veiled threats, and Cope is backed into a corner. The whole town knows about his past; brother to a girl who disappeared at summer camp when the teenage Cope was supposed to have been keeping watch, and that his family life disintegrated in the aftermath. Four teenagers went into the woods that day; two of were found murdered and Cope's sister vanished, along with her boyfriend Gil Perez. Suspicion was once on Cope and perhaps it has never really been lifted. Called out of his daughter's school acrobatic competition by two snarly cops, Cope is taken to view the body of a murdered man who was found with clippings of the camp disappearances on his person. Not only that, the man has a ring that Cope recognises in an instant. It belonged to his sister Camille.
Events begin to crash down on Paul Copeland, and it is once again the story of an "everyman" who must become his own detective and rise to the challenge. Sidelining Cope's narrative is Lucy's, (third person) who was Cope's girlfriend way back then, and daughter to the man who ran the summer camps in their youth. The two narratives work well in tandem, each doing what is necessary to provide the background information about their shared tragic past.
Harlan Coben is known for his one sitting thrillers, and IN THE WOODS provides no exception to this. What it lacks is some of the emotional punch and that ability to have the reader agonizing over what is going to fall upon the earnest protagonist next. Coben's characters are those good guys that you want to see succeed and perhaps a little cookie cutter in that respect, and so the character of Paul Copeland comes across as a bit too vanilla flavoured in this latest work.
Only if you compared THE WOODS to the work of Harlan Coben would you find it midline, this is a fast and furious read by the most popular thriller writer out there today. Coben's novel is not any more cerebrally challenging than the priors but contains all the ingredients you would expect; the ordinary guy forced to become a hero, the suspicious cops, puzzles from the past, a touch of romance, the murk of a family mystery. The pages will fly and everything is resolved as it should be.
Makes you wonder if Coben was thinking of "Teddy Bears Picnic" with this title? There was always menace in the lyrics.