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- March 2014: Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece
- February 2014: Forged: Why Fakes are the Great Art of Our Age
- January 2014: Full Upright and Locked Position by Mark Gerchick '73, P'13
- December 2013: This Indian Country by Fred Hoxie '69
- November 2013: The Partner Track by Helen Wan '95
- October 2013: The Forage House by Tess Taylor '99
- September 2013: Inferno by Dan Brown '86
- August 2013: Six Years by Harlan Coben '84, P'16
- July 2013: The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein '88
- June 2013 - Brothers Emanuel by Ezekiel Emanuel '79
- May 2013 - Cadaver by Jonah Ansell '03
- April 2013 - Masters of Disaster by Chris Lehane '90
- March 2013 - Schroder by Amity Gaige
- February 2013: El Iluminado by Ilan Stavans
- January 2013: Everything Under the Sun by David Suzuki '58
- December 2012: Arcadia by Lauren Groff
- November 2012: The Hidden Europe by Francis Tapon '92
- October 2012: The Price of Inequality by Joseph Stiglitz '64
- September 2012: Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet by Andrew Blum '99
- August 2012: Hitlerland by Andrew Nagorski '69
- July 2012: Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach '93
- June 2012: Vineyard at the End of the World by Ian Mount '92
- May 2012: God's Jury by Cullen Murphy '74
- April 2012: Big Birthday by Kate Hosford '88
- March 2012: EyeMinded by Kellie Jones '81
- February 2012: 1493 by Charles Mann '76
- December 2011: The Vices by Lawrence Douglas
- November 2011: Don't Cross Your Eyes by Aaron Carroll '94
- October 2011: Come On All You Ghosts by Matthew Zapruder '89
- September 2011: The Pale King by David Foster Wallace '85
- August 2011: Scoundrels in Law by Cait Murphy '83
- July 2011: Terror and Wonder by Blair Kamin '79
- June 2011: What Should I Do? by Professor Alex George
- May 2011: Model Nazi by Professor Catherine Epstein
- April 2011: A Thread of Sky by Deanna Fei '99
- March 2011: Unlikely Allies by Joel Paul '77
- February 2011: Secret Historian by Justin Spring '84
- December 2010: The Best of Foxtrot by Bill Amend '84
- November 2010: Higher Education? by Andrew Hacker '51
- October 2010: Routes of Man by Ted Conover '80
- September 2010: The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick '75
- August 2010: Innocent by Scott Turow '70
- July 2010: Simple Fresh Southern by Matt and Ted Lee '93
- June 2010: Ballet's Magic Kingdom by Professor Stanely Rabinowitz
- May 2010: Ecological Intelligence by Daniel Goleman '68
- April 2010: Andean Express by Adrian Althoff '04
- March 2010: Freefall by Joseph Stiglitz '64
- February 2010: Beautiful Creatures by Margaret Stohl '89
- December 2009: What to Read When by Pam Allyn '84
- November 2009: On Poets and Poetry by William H. Pritchard '53
- October 2009: Julie & Julia by Julie Powell '95
- September 2009: Rules for Old Men Waiting by Peter Pouncey
- August 2009: The End of Overeating by David Kessler '73
- July 2009: The Mirror Effect by Dr. Drew Pinsky '80
- June 2009: Art and Politics of Science by Harold Varmus '61
- May 2009: Hold Tight by Harlan Coben '84
- April 2009: Passing Strange by Marni Sandweiss
- March 2009: Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian '82
- February 2009: Loneliness as a Way of Life by Tom Dumm
- January 2009: Painter from Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein '88
- December 2008: The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff '01
- November 2008: The Most Famous Man in America by Debby Applegate '89
- October 2008: The Thing Itself by Dick Todd '62
- September 2008: Are We Rome by Cullen Murphy '74
By Harlan Coben ’84. New York City: Dutton, 2008. 416 pp. $26.95 hardcover.
Reviewed by J.J. Gertler ’82
As a young subscriber to Motor Trend magazine, I was befuddled when one issue simply failed to arrive. Only later did I learn that my father, deciding that the special issue, titled “Love and the Automobile,” was too racy for a 13-year-old, had confiscated it.
He had it easy. Today’s parents face not the occasional magazine issue, but a daily tsunami of e-mails, images and free-range Internet mayhem, all delivered direct to a child’s bedroom. Add to that the electron-enabled menace of online pedophiles, and a parent could be excused for spending all day, every day, filtering what his or her child sees.
Take the case of Mike and Tia Baye. Faced with an increasingly sullen and detached son and unable to find an explanation, they decide, reluctantly, to monitor his computer activity. And thus begins the main plot of Harlan Coben’s latest bestselling novel, Hold Tight.
Around the Baye family play the dramas of modern suburbia. The boy next door has cancer, another boy is a recent suicide, unidentified bodies begin turning up around town, the Bayes’ daughter befriends an outcast classmate, and at 46, Mike finds it increasingly hard to play hockey without aches and pains. As Hold Tight unfolds, all of these stories eventually relate to one another, making the book a whodunit, a whydunit and a what’dshedo all at the same time—and the list of questions only builds as the tempo quickens. The discovery of how the pieces fit, along with some unforeseen cause-and-effect relationships, drive quick page turns. To be sure, a few coincidences help the plot along, but their convenience is lost in the tension as the threads come together.
Coben has been a major force in mystery writing since shortly after he left Amherst. Over time, his books have moved more into social and family issues (although Hold Tight does share a major character with the world of Coben’s longtime hero, Myron Bolitar, and gives Myron a passing nod). This book marks a clear step in that evolution. While it is still propelled by plot over character, the plot threads spring from (and in some cases define) the relationships among the players. We learn just enough about each character to serve the book’s purpose; few are given much depth. Most have interpersonal issues: those in seemingly healthy relationships fear happiness cannot last, while others have given up altogether.
At root, though, Hold Tight’s characters—good guys and bad alike—are motivated by human affection and obligation. They also force readers to examine the value of competing obligations. At what point in disclosing information to a patient does a doctor do more harm than good? What sacrifices will one family member accept in order to protect another? How much independence can a parent allow a child while carrying out the prime duty of keeping a family safe?
If this novel doesn’t sound like a typical mystery, Coben has achieved his intended result. Indeed, despite its placement on the shelf and Coben’s multiple-Edgar-Award pedigree, Hold Tight is more a thriller than a mystery. The reader isn’t given enough information to get ahead of the characters, and right at the point when you’re about to learn the next important piece, the author smash cuts from one character to the next, one plot line to the next, placing chapter breaks as Hitchcock placed his camera.
Wry and occasionally dark humor is also a staple of Coben’s books. Although it’s less in evidence here—after all, he is trying to build more realistic characters than his standard cast—it’s not repressed completely, and one quick, knowing wink is reserved for those who have attended the Fairest College.
One suspects that, as a father of four, Coben is writing from his own experience in parenting decisions; it doesn’t give too much away to hope the book isn’t all autobiographical. Hold Tight works both as a test for parents and prospective parents and an exciting read for anyone who has ever had parents.
A national security analyst, writer and broadcaster, Gertler is co-author with Michael Levin ’80 of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Pentagon.