The Woods by Harlan Coben

Addition: Paperback

Genre: Mystery and suspense

Rating: 5 out of 5

Synopsis:

Twenty years ago, four teenagers at summer camp walked into the woods at night. Two were found murdered, and the others were never seen again. Four families had their lives changed forever. Now, two decades later, they are about to change again. For Paul Copeland, the county prosecutor of Essex, New Jersey, mourning the loss of his sister has only recently begun to subside. Cope, as he is known, is now dealing with raising his six-year-old daughter as a single father after his wife has died of cancer. Balancing family life and a rapidly ascending career as a prosecutor distracts him from his past traumas, but only for so long. When a homicide victim is found with evidence linking him to Cope, the well-buried secrets of the prosecutor’s family are threatened. Is this homicide victim one of the campers who disappeared with his sister? Could his sister be alive? Cope has to confront so much he left behind that summer twenty years ago: his first love, Lucy; his mother, who abandoned the family; and the secrets that his Russian parents might have been hiding even from their own children. Cope must decide what is better left hidden in the dark and what truths can be brought to the light.’ to ‘Twenty years ago, four teenagers at summer camp walked into the woods at night. Two were found murdered, and the others were never seen again. Four families had their lives changed forever. Now, two decades later, they are about to change again. For Paul Copeland, the county prosecutor of Essex, New Jersey, mourning the loss of his sister has only recently begun to subside. Cope, as he is known, is now dealing with raising his six-year-old daughter as a single father after his wife has died of cancer. Balancing family life and a rapidly ascending career as a prosecutor distracts him from his past traumas, but only for so long. When a homicide victim is found with evidence linking him to Cope, the well-buried secrets of the prosecutor’s family are threatened. Is this homicide victim one of the campers who disappeared with his sister? Could his sister be alive? Cope has to confront so much he left behind that summer twenty years ago: his first love, Lucy; his mother, who abandoned the family; and the secrets that his Russian parents might have been hiding even from their own children. Cope must decide what is better left hidden in the dark and what truths can be brought to the light.

This is a story about Paul Copeland, a county prosecutor whose wife has died and whose sister disappeared twenty years ago. On that fateful night, four teens had gone into the woods at summer camp, two were found murdered and two were never seen again. Paul’s sister Cassie was one of those whose body wasn’t found. His father spent every weekend for years digging in the woods but Cassie’s body was never recovered. Although heart-breaking, Paul had learnt to deal with this. Until someone using a fake name turns up dead and the link goes back to Paul. Realising this is the other person who disappeared from the woods, Paul sets out to find out what really happened; and if Cassie is still alive too. But he is not the only one exploring his past. As prosecutor he is trying to get two frat boys jailed for raping an underage exotic dancer. In an effort to protect his son, one of the fathers is doing all he can to frame and blackmail Paul, so the case will be dismissed. Through this, Paul learns some truths about his family: his father’s past when he lived in Russia, why his mother disappeared and didn’t take him and what happened in the woods.

This book is a thrilling and exhilarating read. Mystery and suspense is not what I usually choose to read, but I’ve read another Harlan Coben novel, which I thoroughly enjoyed, so decided to give those one a go. I am so glad I did. This book easily gets 5/5 from me, for pace, a great storyline, twists and turns and the characters.

I thought the storyline was fantastic. This book is so well written, with clues along the way but I still didn’t fully expect the outcome. I was shocked by Paul’s father’s past and what happened to his mother – not what I was expecting. I liked his Uncle – the guy with a shady KGB background. He was protective and hard all at the same time. He seemed to finally be feeling emotions – especially as he had had a tough time in Russia, with his brother and sister starving to death. He was protective of Paul yet still had “connections” – I thought that was cool!

I liked how the story played out – first with the police showing up having found this body who turned out to be Gil, one of the four that went into the woods, then Paul starting to do his own investigation; and then how he was threatened and had to find out about his heritage he wasn’t expecting – and ultimately how they all came together in a spectacular ending. This was a book I couldn’t put down; I just had to know what was going to happen. There were some elements I found a touch unrealistic – such as Paul and Lucy, his girlfriend at the summer camp, reuniting and how both Paul and the judge were blackmailed but the father was never caught and this wasn’t brought to anyone’s attention. I struggle to believe you would get away with that in an American court.

I thought Paul was a fantastic character. He seemed genuinely nice – a good father, a good prosecutor and focused and determined. I found it easy to connect with him; and I was on his side the whole time. I think Coben wrote the other characters well – Lucy, who you felt sorry for as this incident had destroyed her father and her life; his sister-in-law Greta, who tried to help Paul, and then would stand by her husband even when he did wrong; Gil’s family, who had tried to protect their son after the incident, for him to then be murdered and many others.

This is probably the best book I have read in ages. I really enjoyed it – it was exciting and mysterious. Some things in the story I could predict, but a lot I couldn’t. The plot unfolded in a great way. I was hooked and could not put this book down. I highly recommend Harlan Coben and this novel.

This is number two in my Mystery and Suspense challenge

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