Retro Review: The Woods by Harlan Coben

Awesome narration & snarky dialogue but marred by a bland lead.

The Woods by Harlan CobenNarrated by Scott Brick
Mystery Fiction
Unabridged Audiobook 12 hours, 30 minutes
AmazonGoodreads
Twenty years ago, four teenagers at summer camp walked into the woods at night. Two were found murdered, and the others were never seen again. Four families had their lives changed forever. Now, two decades later, they are about to change again. For Paul Copeland, the county prosecutor of Essex, New Jersey, mourning the loss of his sister has only recently begun to subside. Cope, as he is known, is now dealing with raising his six- year-old daughter as a single father after his wife has died of cancer. Balancing family life and a rapidly ascending career as a prosecutor distracts him from his past traumas, but only for so long. When a homicide victim is found with evidence linking him to Cope, the well-buried secrets of the prosecutor's family are threatened.

Is this homicide victim one of the campers who disappeared with his sister? Could his sister be alive? Cope has to confront so much he left behind that summer twenty years ago: his first love, Lucy; his mother, who abandoned the family; and the secrets that his Russian parents might have been hiding even from their own children. Cope must decide what is better left hidden in the dark and what truths can be brought to the light.


My Thoughts
 

I accidentally started reading the abridged version of this book last month. It wasn’t very good and I thought it was me, my mood, something . . . Like most abridgments it left me confused, moved too fast and seemed to be missing the best parts. Characterization was not really there and Coben’s snarky humor was nary to be seen. After wasting four + hours I realized my stupid mistake and managed to track down the unabridged version at my library. It was read by the same narrator too, Scott Brick. Why on earth they would chop this version up and cut out some of the best parts is beyond me. If you’re getting this on audio be careful!

This unabridged version was much more readable but in all honesty it definitely wasn’t the best book I’ve read by this author.

I liked it well enough in the beginning. Paul “Cope” Copeland, the protagonist, was a decent enough fellow. He’s a single father who lost his wife to cancer and he works very hard as the county prosecutor (I think that’s right) putting bad folks away with his sidekick Muse (I liked Muse, she was a tough girl who was good at her job). When they were busy finding evidence to nail a bunch of rich, entitled rapists, I was glued to the story. Even the bits that take place in the courtroom were interesting and I don’t usually enjoy courtroom dramatics. Unfortunately, at some point that plot drops off the planet for a while and the space is filled with an assortment of other sub-plots that made the book feel a little overstuffed. There’s a past mystery about Paul’s dead sister that’s come back to haunt him, an ex-flame that may or not be rekindled, then there’s a trusted and beloved relative who may be up to a little shadyness and one of the rich boys daddies is having dirt dug up about Paul. There might’ve been even more going on but I started to tune out a little due to disinterest.

This book got a bit too tangled up by the end for me because there was just too much going on. I probably would’ve had a better time with the book if I hadn’t listened to as an audio. Then again I probably would’ve set it down and never picked it up again. The narration was good. Brick has a strong voice made for a hard-boiled mystery. The characterization was pretty good too but I found Paul a little too bland to carry the book (sorry but it’s true). He was a nice guy who stood up for the down-trodden wee man but he just wasn’t compelling enough to grab me and keep for the duration. There was some memorable humor though and it’s definitely worth a read if you enjoy this type of mystery/suspense.

Here’s Paul talking to a client and her shifty, stinky attorney:
“Oh I understand. They’re offering money if you recant. The sum has now reached a level where your attorney here, Mr. Who-Needs-A-Shower-When-There’s-Cologne, thinks it makes sense to do it.”
“What did you call me?”
I looked at Muse. “Open a window, will you?”
“Got it, Cope.”
“Hey! What did you call me?”
“The window is open. Feel free to jump out.”
Hahahaha, I love some good snarky sarcasm and Coben does it just right. I just want more of it!

Coben is a great writer, there’s no denying it, but The Woods just won’t go down as my most beloved of his work.

What's your favorite Harlan Coben novel?


Looking for another good read by Harlan Coben? Here ya go:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/80291768?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/78317059?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

A Bit About the Author

Harlan CobenWith over 60 million books in print worldwide, Harlan Coben’s last seven consecutive novels, MISSING YOU, SIX YEARS, STAY CLOSE, LIVE WIRE, CAUGHT, LONG LOST and HOLD TIGHT all debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and lists around the world. His books are published in 43 languages around the globe.

Coben is the winner of the Edgar Award, Shamus Award and Anthony Award – the first author to win all three – and he has received an eclectic variety of honors from all over the world. His novel TELL NO ONE has been turned into a hit French film of the same name. His essays and columns have appeared in many top publications.

Harlan was born in Newark, New Jersey. He still lives in New Jersey with his wife, Anne Armstrong-Coben MD, a pediatrician, and their four children.

Read April 2014

Comments

  1. Sounds like there is a lot going on. Maybe if it hadn't thrown in so many subplots it would have been better. I can see what this one was hard to follow at times and stay interested.

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    1. Yeah, I prefer my books to be a little more focused. I'd rather be shorter and more concise than throw in all sorts of subplots.

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  2. I've only read Six Years by Coben, which I liked, but I haven't run into another of his books that I really wanted to try...and you didn't convince me to give this one a read either, but I know he has some good ones out there. What's your favorite of his books?

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    1. A friend of mine adores the Myron Bolitar series. She read through them all in a few days and passed them on to me and, uh, they're still sitting here somewhere. I enjoyed the other two stand-alones I've read a little more than this one. They were Gone for Good & Hold Tight. I'll have to see if I have Six Years. I probably do ;)

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  3. I love Harlan Coben! One of my favorite authors. I read this one right after it was released and gave it 4 stars but I do plan to do a re-read of it in audio someday. I love the Myron Bolitar series and so many of his stand alones. I remember being the most impressed with Just One Look but that may be because it was the first Coben book that I picked up.

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    1. I really need to get going on the Myron Bolitar series.

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  4. I've never read Harlan Coben but heard good things. Sounds like a cool plot but sorry to hear the lead was a bit bland. I like a bit of snark in my thriller/ mysteries too. :)

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  5. My favourite Harlan Coben novel is Home, part of the Myron Bolitar series. The dialogue was just awesome, pacing superb and I'vew been hooked since then! Great review ! Not sure if I'd pick this one up though since I know he's done more exciting ones.

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    Replies
    1. That's it. I'm digging out these books this weekend!

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  6. I have never read of his books, but I heard great things about his work. Sorry to hear that the lead character was not interesting.

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    1. Eh, that's ok. Most characters don't do it for me anyway :)

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  7. I don't understand abridged versions at all. Darn on the mix up. I've listened to Scott Brick do a light suspense and really enjoyed him.

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    1. I don't get why they do that either. Who is the market for those things? People who enjoy missing out on half the book?!!

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  8. I haven't read this author despite the bestselling status. I never read abridged versions of books. I always want to see the full story as the author intended.

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    1. I'm the same why. I don't get why anyone thinks an abridgment is a good way to go.

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