Darren Hartwell's Reviews > Seconds Away

Seconds Away by Harlan Coben
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Jan 04, 13

bookshelves: action, thriller, crime
Read in October, 2012

This review first appeared on The Book Zone(For Boys) blog

Seconds Away picks up straight after the events of Shelter, and you really have to have read the first book in the series for this one to make a great deal of sense. For those of you who read Shelter a year ago and may have forgotten key elements of the story have no fear - Coben cleverly weaves enough reminders into the opening chapters to refresh your mind of the events in that first book, and also the bombshell he dropped at the close of the book that has left fans begging for more ever since.

I know that there have been some readers who were left a little confused at the end of Shelter, as there seemed to be two very different elements to it. For the most part it was a gritty crime thriller, with Mickey Bolitar and his new friends being drawn into a thrilling and deadly mystery rooted firmly in modern crime. However, there also seemed to be something of a supernatural element to the series spanning story arc, an element that seemed more than a little out of place in a straight crime story. Ninety year old ex Nazis who still look young, anybody? In Seconds Away Coben gradually reveals more information behind this element and by the end readers will have a much better understanding of this, and like me they will also be just as hungry for the next instalment.

As with Shelter then there are two stories going on in this sequel. There is the standalone element - Mickey's friend Rachel is injured and her mother killed in a shooting at her house, and Mickey, Ema and Spoon set out to solve the mystery - and then there is the greater mystery: that surrounding Mickey's life, the death of his father, the Bat Lady, the Butcher of Lodz and the Abeona Shelter. Coben uses all of his writing experience and expertise to craft a story that has you racing through the pages, desperate to get to the solution to both mysteries. And there is no point second guessing either - the plot twists and turns like an Alpine giant slalom, and just as you think you have guessed 'whodunnit', somthing else is revealed and you find yourself staring open mouthed as the letters W.R.O.N.G. flash teasingly through your brain.

Crime is a genre that has huge adult appeal, with book stores having ranks of shelves dedicated to authors of these books. However, it is only in the last eighteen months or so that it has crossed over to the YA market, with the likes of Harlan Coben, Colin Mulhern, Niall Leonard and Peter Cocks writing for this younger age group. I know some of the boys at school much prefer these kind of stories that are grounded in a realism that they can relate to, as opposed to fantasy and horror stories.
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