“Hold Tight” by Harlan Coben

Coben, Harlan. Hold Tight (2008) 
Dutton, 321 pages, $26.95 hardcover 
ISBN-10: 0525950605 
ISBN-13: 978-0525950608.


When Mike and Tia Baye install a spy program on their son Adam’s computer, they have no idea what they’re getting themselves into. All they know is that 16-year-old Adam has become increasingly more withdrawn and sullen over the past few months, a process that has worsened since the suicide of Adam’s best friend four months earlier. Mike doesn’t want to spy on his son, but he has to agree with his wife’s plaintive plea: “We’re losing him.”

On the surface the Bayes seem like the perfect family. Mike, a former hockey stand-out at Dartmouth, is now a successful transplant surgeon. Adam seems destined to follow his father as a college hockey player. Tia has recently gone to work for one of the best-known defense attorneys in the area after a stint as a stay-at-home mom with Adam and his 11-year-old sister, Jill. They live in an affluent New Jersey suburb. But a cryptic computer message and the disappearance of Adam throw the family into a nightmare that indicates that things are not always what, on the surface, they seem to be.

Coben’s characteristic writing style is to throw readers right into the heart of the action from the very beginning. In this case the result may be some confusion over what appear to be separate stories at the beginning of the novel. But just go with these stories for a while. In the end they will all be intertwoven in a complex way that underscores the tangled web of existence that the novel portrays.

Hold Tight is the best of Coben’s non-series thrillers, but its dénouement hints at a disturbing underlying reality:

There is a certain fate to the universe and a certain randomness. . . . So what had Tia the mother learned from all this? You do your best. That’s all. You go in with the best intentions. You let them know that they are loved, but life is too random to do much more. You can’t really control it. (p. 315)

Sometimes things happen that you can’t predict or control. But sometimes you also find help in the places where you’d least expect to find it. And sometimes all you can do is grab onto what’s important to you and just hold on tight.

© 2008 by Mary Daniels Brown

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