MY RATING: 3/5
Harlan Coben's masterful writing will definitely make you want to read this book, if you haven't already...
Let me get this clear. People have been telling me to read a Coben thriller since ages and when I finally caved in to the peer pressure, I chanced upon Run Away which is probably one of the best stories I have ever read in my life. I instantly became a fan of Harlan Coben and you need to understand that I hold Coben's writing in high esteem, so much so that it is kind of difficult for me to review this book because...it is amazing in itself, but it fails to reach that level.
So, coming to this book. "The Boy from the Woods" starts with the disappearance of a girl named Naomi Pine who has had to endure tremendous bullying at school and everybody, naturally, believes she has run away to escape her awful surroundings. Enter Hester Crimstein, a seventy-something woman whom you would probably recognise from Coben's other novels. She has this larger-than-life presence and she does not take no for an answer and always speaks her mind and loves beating people's arses, figuratively, in the court where she is hailed as one of the best criminal lawyers in the country. She wears her age like it's just a number and says that she stopped counting her years after she turned sixty nine and I simply love her! Her grandson, who is a classmate of Naomi's, asks her to look into her disappearance and Hester takes on board the eponymous Boy from the Woods---whose name is actually Wilde. Wilde's character has been sculpted by Coben with utmost attention and God, is he perfect! Wilde is a quiet man with a mysterious past and a genius mind. He has served in the army and now lives his life away from human settlement in his EcoCapsule( if you're wondering what that is, well, read the book!) Wilde has a keen interest in solving mysteries but his disinterest in other human beings made him leave the private investigation firm he ran with his foster sister. But when Hester goes to him, he decides to help her and the rest...is for you to find out.
Coben's newest thriller, to my utter happiness, features what he does best...portraying characters in such a way that it makes you want to root for each and every one of them. I think an author's most treasured quality is how he can make his audience fall in love with the characters of his novel and Coben does it over and over again. Hester is probably one of the strongest female fictional characters you've ever read, if you're a Coben fan. And all these years, in Coben's books, we have had glimpses of her in a few chapters, maybe, but in "The Boy from the Woods", for the first time, Hester lets us know her story in its full glory and I was not disappointed at all. What makes Hester even more special and endearing to the readers is her vulnerability, which peeks from underneath her veneer of toughness. And her romance with Oren Carmichael is like the cherry on the top of a cake. You would think a seventy year old lady would be attached to her wheelchair, knitting sweaters for her grandchildren and feeding the cats in her backyard, but no. Hester breaks those stereotypes like a bulldozer and I'm all for it! Another thing that makes Coben's words so magical is how he intertwines two different scenes into one. If you've read Run Away, you'd want to know that "The Boy from the Woods" takes place in a timeline parallel to "Run Away". So you get to hear a bit about Simon Greene here and there but if you haven't read it, no problem, you can treat this book as a standalone.
Now, you might wonder why I gave this novel a score of 3 out 5 if I'm as enamoured with it as I seem to be. Well, the thing is...although the novel has Coben's skills as a writer embossed in every page of it, I felt that fast-paced, nerve-wrecking thrill that you might wish for in his novels, was somewhat missing here. Don't get me wrong, you would still want to read till the last page before drawing a breath and you would still love the characters and you would still tear at your hair, trying to make sense of the mystery but...on a Harlan Coben scale, this novel was not that good, to be honest. There are points in the story which felt like dead ends, but then Coben draws the plot farther from there and he adds in a bit of action as he always does and voilà, the story goes on. But at the back of your mind, you might think that this story could have been better, the ending could have been more interesting and since all these "could-have"-s do exist in my head, after finishing this novel, I have decided to give it three stars, which means it's good...but could have been better.
Nevertheless, I would ask all of you to read it because opinions differ, you mind find this story absolutely riveting while I didn't. So give it a chance, if not for the thrill, then for the incredible characters because we all know, Coben holds an imaginary PhD in crafting amazing characters for his novels!
You can check this book out here: https://bit.ly/3g8T5jc
You can buy the novel here: https://amzn.to/2YcMKgr
Author: Riddhi M. is a pre-med student from India who is obsessed with health and fitness. She lives with her five kittens and when she’s not reading thrillers or writing blog posts, you can find her having momos or playing chess online.