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NRB Book Club: David Forsmark’s Mystery and Thriller Recommendations

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Posted on May 3 2010 6:00 am
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David Forsmark, FPM’s book critic, had this to say about one of his favorite thriller authors:

Harlan Coben has perfected, if not invented, a genre of thrillers in which a suburban mom in a minivan is more likely to be involved in a car chase than a private eye in a red Ferrari.  He became one of the world’s bestselling authors with a string of thrillers in which seemingly ordinary people get drawn into a sinister conspiracy when a family member disappears, a threat comes at them from nowhere… etc.

If Hitchcock were alive, he would undoubtedly have filmed one of Coben’s books by now.

Lately, Coben has gone a  bit out of the suburbs and into thrillerville, with a plot that involved a jihadist plan to breed sleeper agents (not going to tell you which one, that would spoil the surprise) and his latest, Caught, in which the protagonist is not just an ordinary mother, but a crusading journalist who has a show that traps internet predators.

Caught is a twist-a-chapter thriller, and discussing the plot is just not fair.  Coben takes on internet gossip bloggers and a press that goes for the sensational over fact checking, but his main aim is to entertain– and that he does.

Linwood Barclay started his writing career with a series about a paranoid suburban dad who sees danger to his kids around every corner, and actually finds crime in his neighborhood, it’s just never the one he’s been anticipating.

But lately, you could just say he’s been writing Harlan Coben books– or at least the kind of books that propelled Coben to stardom.  In his last two books, Never Look Away, and Fear the Worst (whose titles perfectly capture the mood of this sub-genre) Barclay has perfected his formula.  In Never Look Away, the brief disappearance of his toddler son is only the beginning of a normal guy smalltown newspaperman discovering that everything he thought about his life is a lie– and a cover for a vicious crime.  In Fear the Worst, a father searches for his daughter, the quintessential good girl who has disappeared without a trace after, it seems, she systematically lied to him about everything she did outside their home.  Her dad stubbornly refuses to believe the “evidence,” however.

Of course, in both cases, the husband/father himself becomes the main suspect in a crime that may not have even happened.  Yes, there is a certain formula to these things, but right now Barclay is using it to full entertainment advantage.

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