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Stay Away from Stay Close

  • Chad Estes TheFish.com Contributing Writer
  • 2012 4 Apr
  • COMMENTS
Stay Away from <i>Stay Close</i>


Author: Harlan Coben

Title: Stay Close

Publisher: Dutton Adult

Megan Pierce has a great soccer mom's life by anyone else's standards. She has a loving, successful husband, two children, a large home, and plenty of money to make her life easy. But these relationships and trappings haven't made Megan content; she longs for the excitement that she used to have when she was a stripper in Atlantic City. This isn't a stripper with a heart of gold, nor is she grateful to have escaped a life where she was being used and abused. This is a woman, like Lot's wife, who keeps looking over her shoulder with longing at burning ruins.

Ray Levine used to be an award winning photo journalist, but when his stripper girlfriend disappeared 17 years ago (yes, it was Megan, but he knew her as Cassie) his life went into a complete funk. He is now an alcoholic and takes photography jobs that are far below his talent level. He visits the location in the woods where he last saw Cassie every year on the anniversary of her disappearance.

Detective Broome has been on the case of the missing Stewart Green for 17 years. Stewart was a good and loving family man except for when he was at the strip club. He had an ongoing affair with Cassie (yes, while she was supposed to be so in love with Ray) who disappeared the same night that Stewart did. Now Broome visits Green's wife, who has continued to keep Stewart's slippers next to his favorite chair, to give her updates on the cold case and to sometimes sleep with her.

Carlton Flynn went missing 17 years after Stewart Green and there are enough similarities to the two disappearances that it draws Megan/Cassie, Ray and Broome back together in Atlantic City. Will Broom finally discover what happened to Green? Will Ray and Megan/Cassie decide that they are still in love? Will Megan's husband learn the truth of her former stripper days? Unfortunately all of these characters are so unlikeable that it is hard to care what happens to any of them.

Harlan Coben is known as an author who weaves surprises and twists into his stories. In Stay Close he shoots for the moon and falls way short. Here is the surprise element - Carlton Flynn's father isn't satisfied that the police are doing a good enough job finding his good for nothing son so he hires a couple of goons to do their own investigation. These aren't your normal hit men; they are a young, beautiful Christian couple, who are perfect in every way, have kept themselves chaste, but happen to get off on torturing witnesses and inflicting pain. Believe it or not, their names are Ken and Barbie.

Sigh.

The characters, though they had potential, are too wishy-washy and underdeveloped. The dialog is sub-par, especially for a Harlan Coben novel. The plot has way too many holes and is simply unbelievable. The violence is over the top and unnecessarily gross. Though Coben tries to make up for it at the end with a final plot twist and an epilogue that ties up all the loose ends, the reader is left holding an expensive, hardbound book that simply failed to deliver.

And please, whatever you do, do not open your door to Ken and Barbie. It will be even worse than having to suffer through Stay Close.

*This Review First Published 4/9/2012