Harlan Coben is best known for thrillers in which a good man’s loved ones are menaced by extreme evil; the protagonist’s struggles are always personal. In Caught, the author lowers the stakes considerably when New Jersey TV anchor Wendy Tynes merely loses her job after an on-camera “predator” sting results in death-by-vigilante. In an attempt to win back her job and repair her reputation, Tynes reinvestigates the case against accused molester Dan Mercer, and learns that he might have been innocent all along. Mercer, a social worker, was one of several college roommates whose lives have been destroyed by an unknown enemy.
The author is also not exactly famed for his high humor, yet here he delivers a gut-splitting scene centered around an excruciatingly untalented white, middle-aged, suburban rap artist and his white, middle-aged, suburban groupies. Adding to an already convoluted plot is the disappearance of a 17-year-old girl who had known and trusted the murdered social worker, and might—just might—have been murdered by him. One of the major satisfactions in Caught is to watch the television journalist waver back and forth over Mercer’s presumed guilt, as well as the possible criminality of his old college roommates. There is no frenzied race here to save loved ones’ lives, because when the book opens, the damage has already been done. The only question left for Tynes is “Why?” In less expert hands, that wouldn’t be enough; in Harlan Coben’s, it’s plenty.