I stayed up all night to finish this book. Harlan Coben has been clever enough to create a new series about a character that every girl will have a little crush on before the end of the first chapter. Mickey Bolitar is sardonic and smart, but also independent and kind hearted and a six foot four basketball player! Despite these desirable qualities, he\’s more of an outsider than a heroic figure. This means that he isn\’t too unattainable to appeal to the reader. We learn that Mickey\’s father has recently died in a car accident. Mickey survived, and retains a few memories of the event. With his mother addicted to drugs and in a rehabilitation centre, he is forced to accept living with his slightly odd Uncle Myron to prevent his mother from losing custody.
Living in one place, especially his father\’s childhood home, is a bit of a challenge for someone who has spent his whole life travelling the world\’s trouble spots with his parents and who has never had proper friends. So as well as admiring Mickey, the reader feels sympathy: the author generates a unique character voice, which has just the right balance of strength and vulnerability.
As the novel opens, Mickey has already made and lost one friend at his new high school: Ashley, his new girlfriend, has disappeared. The book deals with Mickey\’s efforts to find Ashley, assisted by other characters with problems and secrets of their own. These characters are well drawn and unusual and are depicted with originality and occasional humour. This aspect is one of the reasons why Shelter is such a rip roaring, exciting page-turner.
A book dealing with the search for a lost girlfriend would have been interesting enough. However, there are multiple plotlines, some of which connect, and strange happenings to maintain reader interest. Not all questions are resolved by the end of the book, so the reader is primed for a sequel. Coben skilfully crafts a fast-paced tale while at the same time throwing doubts about other characters and a series of mysteries into the mix. By the third line of Shelter, I was intrigued, and by the end I knew I was going to buy the next instalment! While reaching its own satisfying conclusion, the book also ends on a thrilling cliff-hanger which makes the next book in the series a must-have for 2012.
Available now: Hachette RRP$22.99