Tuesday, May 09, 2006

PROMISE ME by Harlan Coben

Doris Dixon reviews PROMISE ME by Harlan Coben (Dutton, 2006).

Aimee and Erin are careless. The two teens think nothing of having grabbed a ride with a drunk driver. One evening at a dinner party, Myron Bolitar overhears them recounting the incident. He's known Aimee's mother since junior high and is dating Erin's mom. Rembering a tragic drunk-driving accident in which a girl from his high school died, Myron extracts a promise from the two young women. If they are ever in a bind or stranded without a safe way home, they will call him, no matter what time, no questions asked.

A few days later, Aimee calls Myron at two a.m. He picks her up in Midtown Manhattan and drives her to a New Jersey suburb. Reminding him of his part of their agreement, she resists his questions. Aimee assures Myron that she will be safe at her friend Stacy's house. He leaves her there.

A short time later, Aimee disappears.

The last person to see Aimee, Myron has a hard time convincing the police and her parents that his connection to the case is legit. Aimee's mother extracts a promise from him--he must find her daughter.

This fast-paced, quick-read is thoroughly engaging. Myron, a sports and entertainment agent, is an intriguing character (more so than Kellerman's Alex Delaware, in my opinion). A knee injury sidetracked the NBA career of the former high-school All-American. A compassionate man, Myron "needs" to save people and is haunted by the rescues that failed. The thirty-something bachelor no longer lives with his parents; he's purchased the family home and they've retired to Boca Raton.

According to one reviewer:

"A combination of detective work, sports and humor is featured in [Harlan Coben's] early paperback originals about ... Bolitar. These books were well received, but as the series migrated to hardcover, the themes got darker and dealt less with sports. The character of Win [Windsor Horne Lockwood III], the psychotic sidekick, may be one of the more disturbing allies a detective has ever had, but his choice of morality lends depth to the themes chosen by Coben. Bolitar's office team includes Esperanza and Big Cyndi, two wonderful female characters, each with her own definite sense of self. Readers who enjoy Coben's work may also enjoy Simon Brett (Charlie Paris), Robert Crais, or Laura Lippman."

Gary Warren Niebuhr, Make Mine a Mystery: A Reader's Guide to Mystery and Detective Fiction (Libraries Unlimited, 2003), p. 104.

Promise Me is the 8th Myron Bolitar novel. Harlan Coben has written five bestselling stand-alone thrillers since Myron last tried to save someone in Darkest Fear (2000). The Innocent (2005), for example, was described as "the definitive Coben novel--one that fans and newcomers alike will devour. Don't make the mistake of not reading it!" (Library Journal).

I enjoyed Promise Me. The context in which the crime takes place--I don't want to give away too much--will resonate with many parents and young adults.

Doris Dixon, Raleigh Branch Library

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