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Run Away by Harlan Coben

Published by Grand Central Publishing on March 19, 2019

Simon Greene, a wealth manager, learns that his estranged daughter Paige is playing a guitar for tips in Central Park. Paige is a junkie who has been missing for some time. Simon tries to rescue her, but her boyfriend, Aaron Corval, intervenes. Simon is arrested after punching Aaron and naturally, the video goes viral. A few months later, after Aaron is murdered, Simon and his wife go looking for Paige again.

While that’s happening, a private detective in Chicago named Elena Ramirez is looking for a young man named Henry Thorpe who has also gone missing. Digital messages suggest that Henry was in touch with Paige. Not much time passes before Simon and Elena are working together.

Meanwhile, two orphans named Dee Dee and Ash are roaming around the country doing contract killings. Dee Dee belongs to a cult and therefore claims to know the Truth. Ash loves her but thinks she’s crazy. Maybe she is, but Harlan Coben makes her quite rational as she explains her approach to religion. Dee Dee notes that every follower of a religion (whether or not it is branded as a cult) picks and chooses the religious doctrines they want to obey while rejecting parts of the same religion that seem inconvenient or wrong, and nearly every religion is a profitable business for its leadership. Dee Dee accepts the cult because she accepts those two propositions, following the teachings she likes in the hope that she will obtain a benefit.

Dee Dee is a killer, but she’s more pleasant than most fictional murderers. The plot invites the reader to wonder why Dee Dee and Ash are killing orphans and how Paige’s disappearance fits within the mystery that Simon and Elena are trying to solve.

I generally prefer Coben’s Myron Bolitar novels to his stand-alone books, and that holds true of Run Away. Coben is reliable in that he always writes with pace and creates believable characters. Simon and his family are believable but boring. Dee Dee and Ash are more interesting, but the novel’s best character is an older fellow named Cornelius, who believes that when the rare opportunity to be a hero arises, it is his duty to step up. Unfortunately, Cornelius plays only a limited role.

The story isn’t particularly original. Like some other Coben stand-alone novels, I had the sense that Coben phoned it in. The climactic scene relies on a character coming out of nowhere to save the day. The ending contains one big surprise but the final reveal isn’t surprising at all. Still, Coben’s storytelling skills allow him to phone in very readable novels. Run Away doesn’t tell a great story, but it has enough good moments to make it worth a reader’s time.


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