The Boy From the Woods by Harlan Coben (2020) – Fiction
Sustenance. Readers need books to survive and like eating food, sometimes you just need something quick to get you by.
The Boy From the Woods is a quick thriller. The characters are intriguing and unique, all damaged in some way or another. The main character is a man named Wilde, who we find out fairly quickly is an outcast. When he was a small child he was found in the woods, surviving on his own with no memory of his family or how he got there.
Wilde is an easy, likable character and a broody hero with survival skills honed by his time in the woods. We switch back and forth from Wilde’s perspective to Hester, an aging TV defense attorney. Also damaged, also likable.
These two characters are bonded by Hester’s son David, who was Wilde’s best friend and when he was a boy in the woods, the only person that Wilde talked to without anyone knowing. David passed away from a car accident and his widow and son Matthew are all Hester and Wilde have left of David.
While that stage is set, the thriller revolves around Naomi, a girl who goes missing once, is found, then mysteriously goes missing again. As this second disappearance commences, another child, Crash (the name, I know), also goes missing. Crash just so happens to be the son of a wealthy business owner Dash whose business partner is a senator from New Jersey and presidential hopeful Rusty Eggers (again the names, I KNOW). Eggers, of course, resembles a certain current sitting U.S. president.
The two storylines begin to intertwine and the race to find the children and the real reasons behind their disappearances begins. We have a plateful of characters and it is easy enough to gobble them all down, sift through the novel, and find out the ending of the thriller in a day or two. I enjoy thrillers because of their fast-paced writing style and the way authors craft their words to keep the flow moving. Coben does this perfectly. He is a seasoned thriller writer, having written over 30 thriller and mystery novels.
But like a quick meal that you gobble down in 5 minutes, it is a tad bit unsatisfying. The title, The Boy From the Woods, has really little to do with the plot of the novel. The unique past of Wilde, while touched on, never really becomes an important part except to explain Wilde’s knack for sleuthing and running through the woods easily. The writing is quick, but many of the characters and ideas fall a little too on the nose of cultural events. Many readers enjoy the topical feel but I tend to shy away from that. The story also falls into that hour-long cable news drama script – thrilling and gripping all the way to the end, and nicely wrap-ups by a 3 minute monologue by the main character who finally was able to piece everything together.
While I may have some hangups, The Boy From the Woods may be the easy meal you need during these times.
Lover of the written word.