Don't Let Go
Each year, I find myself eagerly anticipating the latest standalone thriller from Harlan Coben. Don’t Let Go, Mr. Coben’s latest novel, is the story of one man’s quest to uncover the truth about what happened to his twin brother nearly twenty years before. I had a few quibbles with the plot, but I enjoyed the story overall, and am pleased to add it to my list of wins by this author.
Napoleon (Nap) Dumas isn’t sure he has a lot to live for. He has a career he’s pretty good at, but devoting his life to the police department in the New Jersey town of his youth isn’t as rewarding as he originally thought it would be. Honestly, nothing has been all that good for Nap since his senior year of high school when a tragic accident claimed the lives of his twin brother, Leo, and Leo’s girlfriend, Diana. To make things worse Maura, the girl Nap loved, broke up with him shortly after the accident and disappeared without a trace. These days, Nap is just going through the motions, looking for small bits of fulfilment in some very unconventional, and not at all legal, ways. In fact, we first meet Nap as he’s delivering a brutal beating to a man charged with domestic violence, a plot point that troubled me throughout the story.
Later that same day, Nap is visited by two police detectives from a nearby jurisdiction. They’re investigating the murder of a fellow police officer, and Maura’s fingerprints were found in the car of their suspect. Of course, Nap is totally caught off guard by this. He explains to the officers that he and Maura haven’t been in touch for the past fifteen years, and their visit is the first he’s heard about her in all that time. He agrees to help them solve the crime, a fact that made me cringe. Even so early on in the story, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be overly fond of Nap’s investigative style.
As Nap works to find out the nature of Maura’s involvement in the shooting, he unearths some long-buried secrets related to what was once a government research center, a place that had intrigued Leo in the months leading up to his death. Suddenly, Nap becomes convinced his brother’s death was not the accident he had always believed it to be, but proof of his suspicions isn’t easy to find. Still, Nap is determined not to give up. Maybe, if he learns the truth about that long ago night, he can finally put it behind him.
What follows is a roller-coaster ride of a thriller that is sure to keep readers captivated until the very end of the story. Mr. Coben deftly weaves a web of secrets and lies that seems impossible to unravel, but Nap is smart and extremely determined. I may not have liked all of his tactics, but I found myself admiring his tenacity. As I said before, he’s a tough guy to really like, but the author makes it surprisingly easy to cheer him on as he risks everything to uncover the truth.
The story is fairly heavily centered around a government conspiracy. I’m not usually a fan of conspiracy-based novels, but Mr. Coben handles it well. I don’t want to say more for fear of giving too much away, but I thought it was important to mention since I know from these types of stories aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.
The villains are a little over the top; their power seems limitless, and some of their dialogue is cringeworthy. Even so, watching them brought to justice proved delightful.
If you’ve read Mr. Coben’s other novels, a few of this story’s themes might seem familiar. For example, Six Years dealt with a man searching for his girlfriend who disappeared under very mysterious circumstances, and Nap’s search for Maura is pretty similar. Don’t Let Go doesn’t feel like a recycled version of other books, but readers might be able to predict some of the outcomes based on previous experience with this author’s work.
All in all, this is a book Harlan Coben fans won’t want to miss. It’s not a perfect mystery, but I found quite a few things about it to like.