Audiobook Review: Six Years by Harlan Coben

4 06 2013

Six Years by Harlan Coben

Read by Scott Brick

Brilliance Audio

Length: 10 Hrs 37 Min

Genre: Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Six Years is another fun standalone Thriller from Harlan Coben that will have you turning the pages (or audio tracks) so fast that you won’t bother to stop and think about the many inconsistencies until the thrilling finale when you shout, “Aha! I was right all along!” With a bit of action, a likeable if not a bit dim main  character and nauseating melodrama, Six Years is a Coben tale for Coben fans.

Grade: B-

I think one of the major problems for Thriller characters is that they don’t know that they are in a Thriller novel. Sure, there are those who do, and are overly competent, ready to kick some ass, bring down a complex conspiracy and treat the opposite sex character in the novel to some life changing nookie. These Thriller characters have names like Brad Puncher or Ash Butcher and when the shit hits the fan, they take the fan out with a grenade launcher. Yet, not every Thriller character has the opportunity to be a highly skilled operative in a secret government agency, nor do they all have a tragic past that forced them into a life of exile training under that tutelage of a long retired master. Some of them are just Dudes. Guys or gals who find themselves caught up in the shenanigans of others. These poor oafs don’t even realize that have made it into the pages of a thriller novel yet are too stubborn to let things go like a normal everyday lazy person. Their investigative skills are laughable. They will make long elaborate trips to try to get one small bit of information, yet, never think to do things like, let’s say, Google the dude central to their investigation. Yet, when they finally do realize they may just be Thriller characters, they become caught up in stupid thriller tropes, like how to switch out their license plate, instead of focusing on the task at hand. And of course, they never think to call the cops or higher an investigator, because the first rule in goofball thriller club is you don’t tell anyone else anything so that if you die, all the bad guys problems are solved. Yet, I often feel like a bit of a hypocrite. I will listen to a thriller, and bitch and moan about how the main character is some “do no wrong” borderline superhero, then in the next breath I will scream to the heavens about the ineptitudes of the everyman character. Yet, I accept this hypocrisy, and fully admit on some level, I love both these characters, especially the norms fumbling through investigations. I just wish they wouldn’t wait until two thirds of the way into the novel to utilize THE GOOGLE.

In Six years, a normal everyday guy gets involved in an over the top conspiracy that he manages to bumble his way through until he eventually forces the bad guys hands placing his life in jeopardy. Basically, this is the shit that Harlan Coben fans love, myself included. This time, our everyman is college professor Jake Fisher. Six Years ago, Jake Fisher’s dream girl Natalie suddenly decides to marry an old boyfriend, leaving Jake heartbroken yet promising to leave the happy couple alone. That is until he discovers her husband’s obituary, and finds out that the loving wife he left behind wasn’t his lost girl. As Jake investigates, more lies and deceptions pile up and Jake finds himself in the crosshairs of some dangerous men. I have to be honest, there were some moments in Six Years that just had me shaking my head. I think most Thriller fans will figure out the general vicinity of the main mystery pretty early but the ludicrousness of Jake and Natalie’s brief passionate courtship just makes you feel like you had to be missing something. From a critical perspective, I found Six Years to just be too full of inconsistencies, weird side trips, flawed reasoning and stupid characters on all sides of the good guy/bad guy spectrum. Yet, I could help by like Jake Fisher, and because of that, enjoy the story despite the plots many flaws. I think there needs to be something congruous to the “A Wizard Did It” loophole in Fantasy for Thrillers. If both Criminals and Heroes don’t act in incredibly stupid ways, then most thrillers would be about 20 pages, so in some ways this stupidity serves the plot. Sure, if Fisher spent less time reading Hobbes and Locke and more time reading Connelly and Grisham, he probably would have figured half the plot by just reading the dead husband’s bio, but let’s face it, we don’t read Coben for his brilliant protagonists. We read him because he books are so damn fun. Six Years is another fun standalone Thriller from Harlan Coben that will have you turning the pages (or audio tracks) so fast that you won’t bother to stop and think about the many inconsistencies until the thrilling finale when you shout, “Aha! I was right all along!” With a bit of action, a likeable if not a bit dim main  character and nauseating melodrama, Six Years is a Coben tale for Coben fans. What more could you want?

Here’s the thing about Scott Brick. I think sometimes he may be too good. I know he has his detractors, and I haven’t loved everything he’s read, but there is no better narrator at pulling out the poetry of the prose, and giving a novel an almost lyrical feel. That is, of course, if there is any poetry to find in the book. I think that Brick’s narration, if this makes sense, made me wish that Six Years was a better book. Part of me wonders if some of the flatter moments would have been easier to take if a less stylistic narrator had read the novel. Now, I know I may be sounding overly critical, and maybe even a bit snarky. I really enjoyed Six Years. I do not in anyway think it is a great book, or even close to Coben’s best, but I am happy I spent the 10 hours listening to Scott Brick read this novel, and I am not quite sure if this was more due to the narrator’s skills, or the actual book. I’m going to go the safe was and say a little of both, but probably mostly Brick. Now, that I’ve listened to Six Years, I’m ready for some more Myron and Winn.

Note: Thanks to Brilliance Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.

Audiobook Review: Live Wire by Harlan Coben

25 03 2011

Live Wire by Harlan Coben (Myron Bolitar, Book 10)

Read by Steven Weber

Brilliance Audio

Genre: Mystery

Quick Thoughts: The 10th Myron Bolitar novel is another winner, helped by the excellent narration of Steven Weber.

Grade: A-

The Myron Bolitar series has been one of the more consistently entertaining series of the past like 350 years or something. OK, maybe that’s a bit pushing it, but, it’s really fun. Myron is just one of those characters that it’s hard not to like. He is just a big, goofy, trustworthy everyman, with martial arts skills and a heck of a basketball player. For a mystery character, he just comes off as a normal, likeable guy. He isn’t a brooding alcoholic or sociopath avenger. He’s a nice Jewish boy from the suburbs with wonderful parents. Not that he doesn’t have issues. Sure, he has been betrayed by women, shocked by his own tendency for violence and quick to put himself into harms way. Yet, he’s not self delusional or humorless. What makes Myron’s normalcy even more endearing is that fact that he surrounds himself with such an oddball assortment of friends. There’s of course Win, the blueblood Philadelphian, who seems like just a bit of a preppy, but is extremely lethal. Then, there’s ex-lady wrestler and current business partner Esperanza, and her former tag team partner Big Cindy. Add to this a plethora of cross dressing, goatee wearing, steroid using, law enforcing minor character, that Myron’s normalness makes him, well, abnormal.

Live Wire is the 10th novel in the series, and in my opinion, one of the best. Myron at times loses his humor in this novel, since he’s dealing with some serious family issues, but whenever that happens Big Cindy or Win is there for a laugh out loud moment. The overall plot of the novel is well textured and deftly executed. In Live Wire, we finally learn more about Myron’s estranged brother, and his family. There are some tough moments in Live Wire, and at times, Myron, who is not at his investigative best, seems to be flailing around. Yet, when needed, the story become grounded in memories of Myron’s childhood and his relationship with his parents. This is the true beauty of Live Wire, when Myron is at his worst, he is saved by his family, both natural and chosen. Another thing I liked about Live Wire is that, despite their probable protest, Myron and Win are maturing, in different ways. I always wondered how Coben would handle Win’s progression as he gets older, and I thing we have been given glimpses of a more stable, mature Winn. Even his brashness has a more thoughtful feel to it. Live Wire is another winning edition to the Myron Bolitar series.

Many fans of the audiobook versions of this series bemoan the retiring of Jonathan Marosz, who read the earlier novels. While I enjoyed Marosz as well, I actually believe the Steven Weber’s narration of Live Wire has taken the series to a whole other level. Weber is perfect as Myron, and handles the other characters well, even better than he did in Long Lost. He handles the moments of humor with deadpan timing, and the serious moments with an appropriate solemnity. The moments between Myron and his parents come off so natural that I believed it actually enhanced the novel. Hopefully this combination of Harlan Coben and Steven Weber will bring us many more chapters in Myron Bolitar’s story.