Book Talk: Harlan Coben, ‘Run Away’

Harlan Coben is one of those “#1 New York Times Bestselling” authors who has written at least 30 novels. I’ve read some (but not all) of them and understand why he deserves that honor. But, probably not for this book, “Run Away” (2019, 384 pages).


This tale starts out with an interesting situation. Simon Greene is a Wall Street money manager whose life has been complete and enviable. However, his daughter Paige has dropped out of college and disappeared. One day, while walking through Central Park, he spots her, apparently homeless, bedraggled, dirty, strung-out on drugs, playing a guitar, and croaking out a song, hoping for a few coins to be tossed into her guitar case.


When she spots her father, Paige runs away. Through a street hustler named Dave, Simon learns that “performers” are scheduled for set times at that location. Dave tells Simon when Paige will be back, and Simon is there to suffer through his daughter’s hour “on stage.” As she packs up and starts to walk away, Simon stops her. The talk that they have is interrupted by Aaron, her despicable boyfriend, who Simon eventually punches, in the presence of lots of smartphone photographers. And, of course, Paige slips away again, going back into an abusive relationship. Simon is released on bail, having to tell his wife about his encounter with their daughter.


Eventually, Simon and his wife Ingrid track Paige to a location where there are two thugs. One of them pulls a gun and, instead of pointing it at Simon, he shoots Ingrid. At the hospital, Simon learns that Ingrid is in a coma, but her sister Yvonne stays with her, allowing Simon to resume his search for their daughter. Yvonne assures Simon that Ingrid would want him to find Paige.


When Aaron is shot to death, Detective Faghenle naturally contacts Simon. There’s no evidence linking Simon to the killing, so he’s free to continue his quest. But Faghenle makes a statement that casts a pall over the remainder of the story: “You can look for her man, I can’t blame you for trying. But she’s a junkie. Even if you find her, this story won’t have a happy ending.”


At this point, Coben introduces a second story line, one involving P.I. Elena Ramirez who is hired by Sebastian Thorpe III to find his missing son, Henry. As Coben flashes back to her throughout the book, we see Elena as the consummate professional. But, even in this subplot, things don’t bode well.


The third story line involves Ash and Dee Dee, professional killers who murder with less hesitation or second thoughts than I have ordering lunch at the Vineyard. The characters are almost too cold to be believable, even in a work of fiction.


Somehow, Coben manages to pull the three stories together in the denouement. But it’s too much. When I closed the cover and thought about the totality of the work, I wondered if it was Coben’s plan to write a story that would evade the imagined solutions of even the most avid readers of mystery thrillers. I think the book would have been more cohesive if the author had dropped a few clues linking the stories throughout, rather than holding all the cards close to his vest for about 350 pages.


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Jim Glynn may be contacted at j_glynn@att.net.

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