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The Match


The Match

Harlan Coben has been writing bestselling thrillers for decades. But in recent years, he has been responsible for a number of binge-worthy series adaptations of some of his novels. I could not be happier for him as his work is so accessible to readers of many different genres, and never fails to entertain and surprise from start to finish.

It won’t be long before his 2020 bestseller, THE BOY FROM THE WOODS, is made into a miniseries. The book revolves around Wilde, whose backstory is the stuff of legend. Abandoned in the woods, he was left to fend for himself at an extremely young age. He was eventually found in New Jersey's Ramapo Mountain State Forest and raised by Hester Crimstein, a television criminal attorney.

"[THE MATCH] shows off [Coben's] expert plotting and storytelling, which is fully on display here and makes for one heck of a good read."

Wilde is intelligent, self-sufficient and still likes to live in the woods in an eco-bubble, which provides him with a sparse lifestyle. He is very close with his foster family, which includes Hester’s daughters, Laila and Rola, as well as her grandson, Matthew. His best friend was her son, David, who was killed in a car accident when they were younger. This leads us to the book’s sequel, THE MATCH, which is not as good a story as its predecessor. It’s better!

Wilde uses one of those ancestry websites to try to locate his long-lost father. He gets a hit the first time out, and it points him to Daniel Carter, who lives and works in Las Vegas and runs a construction firm called DC. Wilde sends him a short but sweet message: “I may be your son. Could we speak?” Carter responds, so Wilde flies out to Vegas and turns up at his house. They head to the nearest restaurant to get acquainted. Carter recalls the story of the “boy from the woods” and does the math. If he is indeed the father, then the mother must have been one of eight possible one-night stands he had during his year in military service. He does not want his wife or three daughters to ever hear about this. Not looking to be the grenade that blows up the Carter family, Wilde decides to leave.

Coben then introduces us to an odd group, the Boomerangs, whose members meet during a Zoom chat and hide their identities behind a different animal. They discuss taking down people they consider to be bullies, and their membership allows them to do so with extreme prejudice and violence. At first, we don’t know why we are getting acquainted with these people or how they fit into the story.

Meanwhile, Wilde returns to his foster family following a year in Costa Rica. He needs Matthew’s assistance with social media and pop culture figures when he is contacted by someone through that same DNA site claiming to be his cousin. It turns out that this individual is Peter Bennett, an enormously popular character on the reality show “Love is a Battlefield.” Peter won the hand of a young lady named Jennifer at the end of the series, so their nickname and online handle became PB&J.

Wilde’s communication with Peter ends suddenly, and Peter’s last note comes across as almost suicidal. He is then brought up to speed that PB&J famously split up after Peter was accused of sleeping with Jennifer’s sister. Peter has since disappeared, with the internet claiming that he jumped off a cliff to his death. Wilde begins to dig into the online trolls and their threats against Peter, which leads him to a member of the Boomerangs --- and then to a dead body. It’s time to get Hester involved, as well as the FBI. What started as a simple search for Wilde’s birth parents may have led to a string of serial killings that are much bigger than anyone expected.

THE MATCH is full of surprises and allows Harlan Coben the opportunity to answer the questions his readers had about Wilde from the previous novel. It also shows off his expert plotting and storytelling, which is fully on display here and makes for one heck of a good read.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on March 18, 2022

The Match
by Harlan Coben

  • Publication Date: February 7, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1538748290
  • ISBN-13: 9781538748299