Sunday, 20 May 2007

The Woods by Harlan Coben

The Woods
Harlan Coben
Orion €??

SUMMER camp, the paradise of American youth, the memories of innocence. It's their Gaeltacht, when they learn how to flirt and love and be themselves.

But this time the summer camp run by mellow dopehead Ira went bad. Kids went into the woods and didn't come out; some were found dead.

Now county prosecutor Cope Copeland finds that his childhood trauma - he was one of the two who survived, while his sister disappeared and another two were found bloodily murdered - has come back to haunt him.

In a rather messy entanglement of plots, Cope is prosecuting two rich white kids accused of raping a black stripper, and the father of one of the lads comes after him with evidence uprooted from his past.

It works fabulously for the first half, but Coben fails to sustain the characters. The essential nastiness of all his leads comes out increasingly as the story goes on. He fails to make decent use of his ex-KGB father and his sneaky spooky friends. The ending is frankly jaw-droppingly boring and unlikely.

But heck, who reads to the end of this kind of tome-sized holiday reading. Read the first half and have a great time.

It's a pity - though Coben's thriller is selling well, so he's scarcely bothered - because the book starts out with such brilliance of atmosphere and character and plotting.

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