Book Review: Harlan Coben – The Match
He’s perhaps almost as well-known these days for his involvement in streaming thrillers like stay close and the stranger but thrillers bound by a book by Harlan Coben are always a delight. When it arrived in the mail, I shoved all the coming-of-age tomes, short story collections, and “serious” novels from the desk because I knew, even before I opened it, that The game would be the kind of page-turner that would make you dodge phone calls, ignore the doorbell, and go sleepless, and I was right.
Even better to find out it’s some sort of sequel to the 2020s The Woodland Boy, so we spend some more time with Wilde – named because he was found living in the woods as a child, and no one has come forward to claim him. Coming up with this idea of some kind of modern Tarzan must have been an Archimedean moment in the bath for Coben and the background details of the character must have all been written from then on – he joined the army and received training to add to his own survivalist know-how, then, after setting up a security detail with his adopted sister, he begins to move around to solve problems as a team of a only man. If that doesn’t make you want to buy these books, I don’t know what’s wrong with you.
The supporting cast from the previous outing all return; godson Matthew, his television lawyer grandmother – and crucial Wilde ally – Hester who deserves her own novel, and adoptive sister Rola who is there to help the main man in times of need. The plot, which unfolds at an admirably engrossing pace and more or less keeps you guessing until you get to the end and realize it’s six in the morning and you have to go to work in a few hours, kicks off when Wilde sends his DNA to one of those heavily advertised genealogy discovery services. There is a match with a father but it is the cousins who cause the problems.
In addition to dwelling on thrills and twists, Coben takes aim well at the perils of social media and the great barn door that is reality TV, with the program in question, where contestants can find the “real love, sounding particularly unpleasant. How far will competitors go for fame and the free apartment lifestyle that goes with it?
Frankly, you can’t go wrong here, and I, for one, hope to hear from Wilde again. I should also point out that you don’t need to have read the first one to enjoy it as Coben deftly fills in the backstory for you. Yes, you might say the whole notion is a little ridiculous in the first place, but the capeless superhero conceit certainly never hurt Lee Child – or his bank manager – any harm. For those who need it, there are plenty of weighty bildungsromans in the back of the shop, but for pure entertainment, Coben is as hard to beat as his protagonist who gets the job done and ignores the rules.