For some time now the American author Harlan Coben has been up there in the UK’s annual best-seller list, producing tautly-written thrillers somewhat in the style of Lee Child, another regular best-seller. This current novel is sub-titled ‘A Mickey Bolitar novel’, and is the third in a sequence featuring a teenager tall in height but still comparatively young in years. He and a few others belong to a secret organisation revolving around the Abeona Shelter, established to rescue children in danger from cruel parents or guardians in order to smuggle them away to better homes. Further information about this unorthodox approach to the social services is spare, with the author clearly expecting readers to have already read the previous two novels.
What follows is a serviceable plot revolving around upright if rather dull Mickey and the mystery he unearths while playing for his school’s basketball team. Games and practices are described in loving detail, which is fine for fellow basketball-player readers but less so for those with only a passing interest. Elsewhere an older character, nick-named ‘the bat lady,’ provides a link with what is happening and previous disappearances, one of which involves Mickey’s presumed-dead dad. This lady is also a holocaust survivor, but it seems a pity to invoke such a vast horror by way of padding out a contemporary crime story of import only to the small American town in which it is set. Coben is an effective writer but only very occasionally allows a welcome glimpse of irony to enliven what is otherwise an efficient, if slightly mechanical, piece of writing.