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The Woods


The Woods

Harlan Coben is well into his second decade of writing reliably surprising thrillers, including ONE FALSE MOVE, TELL NO ONE, JUST ONE LOOK and PROMISE ME. Loss has been an ongoing theme in Coben’s work, and THE WOODS, his latest novel, is no exception.

Paul Copeland is the county prosecutor of Essex, New Jersey whose less than perfect life is unraveling further. Twenty years ago, his sister Camille was one of four summer campers believed to be the victims of a serial killer. But the bodies of Camille and a young man named Gil Perez were never found, and the lack of closure over her apparent demise haunted Copeland and his loved ones in the wake of her disappearance. Copeland’s mother deserted the family, and he later lost his wife to cancer and his father to a broken heart. At the commencement of THE WOODS, however, things get even worse for Copeland. He’s in the middle of trying the case of his career, involving two fraternity members accused of raping a prostitute, when his world is suddenly rocked. It turns out that Gil Perez didn't die at summer camp after all --- he has just been found, freshly murdered, in New York City.

Meanwhile, Copeland is being pressured by the father of one of the defendants he’s prosecuting to drop the case for a quid pro quo: if Copeland doesn't dismiss the charges, then support for the cancer foundation he founded in his wife’s memory will dry up, and certain skeletons in his closet will begin rattling.

Then Lucy Gold, Copeland’s first romantic interest, comes back into his life, as well as an exotically intriguing younger woman with ties to Perez. Both may have answers concerning the disappearance of Camille as well as other issues that have been perplexing Copeland for decades. Coben switches the point of view of the book back and forth between Copeland and Gold, both of whom were irrevocably changed by the events of the past and who are presently being haunted by them, even as someone --- or a number of someones --- begins tormenting them for their own, unknown purposes.

The trial scenes in which Copeland brings his prosecutorial skills to bear contain some of Coben’s best writing, while bringing to the forefront an unforgettable defense attorney. The mysteries that propel the novel are the most intriguing that the author has ever devised. Perhaps most importantly, however, it features enough riveting characters to fill three (or more) books. If you’re one of the few readers of thrillers who does not have Harlan Coben’s name on your must-read list of authors, then THE WOODS will put it on there.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 24, 2011

The Woods
by Harlan Coben

  • Publication Date: April 17, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult
  • ISBN-10: 0525950125
  • ISBN-13: 9780525950127