New, unique thrillers are a scarcity.
The lack of initiative shown in writers in recent years is slowly sucking the life out of the genre.
Harlan Coben, writer of “Stay Close,” tries desperately to create an uncommon scenario while forgetting what makes the common ones great.
“Stay Close” follows three unhappy individuals who are trying to hide their closet of skeletons from their friends, family and co-workers. Detective Broom is an officer who is trying to connect missing person cases that may or may not be interlaced.
Megan is a mother of two who hates the mundane bubble that she lives in and misses her previous life as an exotic dancer.
Ray is a photographer who hates his day job, only to spend the nights agonizing over his past expectations for life.
While I won’t spoil much of the plot, I will discuss Coben’s writing style and his lack of focus when it comes to serious topics.
This novel delves into the minds of the unhappy, middle- age protagonists, who are consistently dealing with lives they ran away from. Megan was once a stripper who actually enjoyed her work, but now she lives with a family that she feels severally detached from. Pretty serious stuff, wouldn’t you agree?
The seriousness of the subject is exactly why this novel fails. The author doesn’t understand how to handle the immense emotional responses that coincide with these grim affairs. When a character should be freaking out in their own head, they subject the reader to witty remarks.
For instance, when one protagonist early on is being chased by a mysterious man with a wrench, instead of his survival skills kicking into overdrive, he expresses humor and cleverness through his inner thoughts. Coben simply fails at realistically depicting his characters in intense situations. Instead, he tries to force the reader to connect with them at a humorous level, when it should be at an emotional one.
Pacing is another issue with the novel, not because it is too slow of a read, but because it flew at too quick a speed. With the complexities of the emotional troubles gripping each character, one would think that the author would take his sweet time and develop each insecurity with care and patience. Coben goes in the completely opposite direction, tending to move swiftly past each character’s desires and adversities so that the reader is almost left in the dust.
Finally, it saddens me to say that it was hard to even find the characters themselves to be either appealing or relatable. The photographer spends most of his inner witty (unnecessary) thoughts thinking about how his life has went down the drain and how he doesn’t know what to do. This is not a character I want to root for. Readers need protagonists who may be flawed, but rise up against their boundaries and break straight through them.
To be fair, there are some shocking scenes in the beginning that got me hooked until I realized the inconsistencies in the character development and pacing. The best attribute of an adult thriller is that the action sequences and disturbing scenes are not told through subtly, they burst through with surprise. This novel is no different, setting the stage with a few decent shocks to start the story off.
Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this book all too well. The characters were pretty standard and weakly described. The pacing was far too quick, I felt like I knew little to none of what was happening while reading, I just ended up having to take it as it came. I would suggest sticking with a better-known author, such as Stephen King or Dean Koontz if you’re going for a great, suspenseful thriller to tide you over for the next new release.