It’s been awhile since I have had anything resembling a review on the site, and this is mostly due to a lack of time. So in order to combat that, I am simply going to stop trying to write long-ass, mostly skipped over reviews and just offer some recommendations. Sort of like the Oprah Book Club, but for DD readers and without all the crap.
To be honest, all I really want to do is navigate DD readers, who probably share some of my morbid interests, around the stinking turds and towards material they may enjoy as much as I did. I’ll leave actual reviews to the people who are paid for it and will link to them within my future recommendations if you’re looking for more in-depth analysis.
To start things off, I’d like to talk about one of the best books I have read this year, Harlan Coben’s 17th novel, Caught. Here’s the official synopsis:
17 year-old Haley McWaid is a good girl, the pride of her suburban New Jersey family, captain of the lacrosse team, headed off to college next year with all the hopes and dreams her doting parents can pin on her. Which is why, when her mother wakes one morning to find that Haley never came home the night before, and three months quickly pass without word from the girl, the community assumes the worst.
Wendy Tynes is a reporter on a mission, to identify and bring down sexual predators via elaborate—and nationally televised—sting operations. Working with local police on her news program Caught in the Act, Wendy and her team have publicly shamed dozens of men by the time she encounters her latest target. Dan Mercer is a social worker known as a friend to troubled teens, but his story soon becomes more complicated than Wendy could have imagined.
In a novel that challenges as much as it thrills, filled with the astonishing tension and unseen suburban machinations that have become Coben’s trademark, Caught tells the story of a missing girl, the community stunned by her loss, the predator who may have taken her, and the reporter who suddenly realizes she can’t trust her own instincts about this case—or the motives of the people around her
Aside from it just being a good read, the plot alone should give just enough details on why I feel this book would appeal to regular readers of this site. It contains subject matter that we report on, and discuss, on an almost daily basis. Missing teens, Internet predators, pedophiles, guilty until proven innocent, vengeance, media meddling and crime as entertainment. There’s also a handful more that include a parent’s relationship with their teens and vigilantism, but to go into them in detail would likely spoil some of the plot and ruin the multiple, satisfying twists and turns Coben employs.
We deal with horrendous stories here on a daily basis. Stories reported by the major news outlets and then regurgitated by us injected with a bit of raw emotion and encapsulated with a thin, candy coating to help it all go down. These stories often include young teens preyed upon by the vilest of predators, some of who are found guilty of their crimes beyond a reasonable doubt. In others, the story simply reports on the accusation and arrest never to be heard from again. However in both cases the hate, scorn and contempt is doled upon the suspects in our comments section by the public who are genuinely — and sometimes rightfully — as outraged as they are frightened. But what if the accused is innocent?
From Melinda Duckett’s suicide after her appearance on Nancy Grace to the online crime bloggers and television “experts” basically accusing Holly Bobo’s brother of being her killer, the media does have an effect on criminal cases for better and for worse. Caught delves into the public’s fascination with real life soap operas and the media’s willingness to supply it — all under the guise of finding justice. But again, what if the accused is innocent? Does the media ever spend the time, money and effort it spent on publicly flogging a person accused of a crime to try and reverse any damage they have done if it is later found the person is innocent? The question is a rhetorical one as you already know the answer. The media gives the public what it wants, and it has been shown time and time again, the public doesn’t want stories on good deeds and innocent people. They want death, drama and villains.
Ok, I’m rambling. But I cannot help it as the book hit on a lot of talking points we deal with daily here at DD. While Caught doesn’t go into any kind of detailed social study in regards to crimentertainment, as it isn’t the purpose, it does raise the same questions often asked by people who wonder what it is about publicly shaming an individual that garners so much of the public’s interest. Thankfully, it doesn’t attempt to answer any of the questions it raises, leaving that to the reader to decide. The main crux of the book is a teen who disappears without a trace and one reporter’s personal investigation into a man she shamed on television, a man who may have details regarding the missing teen, when it seems like the clear-cut case against him is anything but.
Overall, I feel Caught is one of Coben’s better thrillers with a leading lady I quickly warmed up to and with interesting characters instead of the clichéd, one-dimensional cast from a Lifetime mystery movie. Just as in real life, nothing is always as it seems and the good guys are as flawed as the bad guys, rarely operating consistently on either end of the moral spectrum. Coben expertly handles multiple, intertwined storylines, keeping them from tripping all over themselves as they make their way towards their individual conclusions — sometimes in ways I did not expect. Oh yeah, on a minor note, Coben has a handle on the Internet and how it can be used to defame and slander. It was refreshing to read a book in which blogging and Facebook play a role and were done so in a believable manner. I know that may not mean much to some, but it always aggravated the hell out of me when modern technology is represented by someone who has obviously never used or researched it.
Honest-to-god, Caught deserves the “page turner” description and obviously resonated with me or I wouldn’t have taken the time to write this almost a week after I finished reading it. If you’ve read Coben’s past books or not, you can’t go wrong with Caught. You can grab it in a myriad of formats, including Kindle, Hardcover, paperback and for those of you whose last book detailed Dick running somewhere, there is also an audiobook.Tags: book, Caught, cracked spine, Crime, Harlan Coben, review