REVIEW: Harlan Coben – Gone for Good

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Whilst no direct plot spoilers are given in this review, please be aware that some minor spoilers may occur.

When Will’s dying mother announces that his brother Ken – who has been on the run for rape and murder for 11 years – is alive, Will’s life is turned upside down looking for the truth on what really happened. He has always believed his brother innocent. When the love of his life Sheila goes missing shortly after, things get complicated.

In fact, they get very complicated. So complex, in fact, that I had to repeatedly flick back in the book every now and then to check whether I had missed a plot point. Events in Gone for Good just seem to pop up and happen exactly at the right time (or wrong time), and for me this let the book down hugely. This isn’t the first Coben novel I’ve read. I’ve read two or three more over the last decade and I’ve distinctly come to realize that he only has one theme, one voice, one pattern. If you read enough of his work, it sadly all starts to feel the same.

The characters left a lot to be desired and, again, seemed to change personality, motive and tack depending on what the plot called for.

It also hugely bothered me that the book swung between first and third person for no reason whatsoever. When we were looking through Will’s eyes, the prose read almost like a blog; very blocky, lots of self-interruptions and whatnot. The rest of the prose, in third person, was fine. I think the book would have read better being all in third person or, at least, been entirely in first-person as if Will was literally telling us a story about everything that happened.

The convoluted and borderline ridiculous plot driveled on, pinging back and forth with the characters coming to obscene conclusions and having strokes or good or bad luck whenever the plot called for it, until it came to a head and we were given the twist. There are two main twists in this novel, but the first one is a red herring, and serves absolutely no purpose whatsoever. Once I had finished the book, I had to flick back yet again to see if I could find a reason, but there was none.

When the true twist came about, it was all neatly wrapped up in a dramatic monologue from one character to another, reeling out the entire plot of the book in the space of a few paragraphs. What was worse, this particular character (the one who revealed the ‘who dunnit‘ via monologue) was in a good chunk of the book. I would say, in fact, they were one of the main cast. Yet they held onto this information until the last moment of the story because the author was simply too lazy to find a way to make the information come out organically.

Then, it was all over. Just like that, completely finished. The questions were answered with a ‘how’, but rarely with a ‘why’, and it left a feeling of frustration in its wake.

Gone for Good was not a terrible book. It’s readable and dare I say enjoyable to an extent, but there are better crime thriller authors out there.

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