Saturday, September 19, 2020

Book Reviews: Runaway

by Harlan Coben
Coben is a skilled creator of thrillers in which one event or piece of information changes the protagonist's life forever. This book took longer for me to finish than usual but that was no reflection on the author. It was because for the past few months I was working 80 hour weeks and didn't have the usual time for pleasure reading. This will be a shorter review than usual. It's difficult to write much about this book without giving away key plot elements and twists. 
Because I had to read this book in a somewhat disjointed fashion I didn't enjoy the book as much as I would have otherwise. Again, not the writer's fault. As mentioned, Coben's style is identifiable and familiar. I wouldn't call it formulaic per se as much as comfortable.  The reader knows what he or she is going to get in terms of the big picture if not all the details.
Have you ever been in a position where you try to help a family member or other loved one who doesn't want to be helped?  This can be frustrating. It can be especially irritating if your normal position in your family hierarchy has always included guiding, protecting, and assisting wayward or needy younger relatives.
Simon Greene is a financial advisor. His wife Ingrid is a pediatrician and former model. 
They're not quite  in the 1% but the couple does well for themselves. Simon and Ingrid have three children. Simon and Ingrid are estranged from their oldest daughter, the college aged Paige. Paige has dropped out of college. She's also become a junkie. Ingrid has refused to ever let Paige back in the family home. Paige is also a thief. Although everyone else in the family has given up on Paige, who may be homeless at this point, Simon refuses to do that. 
Simon thinks that everything went wrong when Paige met her boyfriend, Aaron, a slimeball who's eleven years older than Paige. Simon has never stopped looking for Paige, hiding his search from Ingrid, who thinks that tough love and boundaries are the only thing that might save Paige.
Following a neighbor's tentative lead, Simon starts hanging around Strawberry Fields Central Park. The neighbor saw Paige working there as a busker. Desperate to reconnect with his daughter, Simon also pays some vagrants for any info about Paige. Against the odds Simon finds his daughter. Paige looks horrible. After Paige's set, Simon tries to talk to her. 
But Aaron interferes. Paige flees. Frustrated, Simon punches Aaron. Onlookers see this as assault--which it is. Simon is swarmed, punched, kicked, and stomped before the cops arrive. Simon winds up with broken ribs, a concussion and other injuries. He's also arrested. Adding insult to injury the print media and social media capture Simon's punch on video and have a field day with it.
Simon continues his search as it becomes slowly apparent to first the reader and then Simon that Paige has been swimming in some very deep dark waters. Simon probably should have left well enough alone. But he can't do that, no matter the cost to him or even other family members. Runaway will have the reader turning the pages to see what happens next although some events stretch credulity. I never saw the bigger story coming. Most authors can't get away with the kitchen sink approach but Coben can. I think I will revisit this story in a few months when I have time for a more focused read. I missed some hints and clues.
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