three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
29-July-Aug-2007
By: 
Harlan Coben
user_rating: 
0

A-The WoodsTwenty years ago, Paul "Cope" Copeland and his summer love Lucy Gold, both camp counselors, unintentionally allowed four others, including Cope’s sister, to venture off into the woods. Two were murdered by the reputed Summer Slasher; two were never seen again. The case reopens when Cope, now a widower with a young daughter and serving as the county prosecutor of Essex, New Jersey, is linked to a middle-aged male victim that may be one of the campers who disappeared. As Cope entertains the hope that his sister may still be alive, he comes under suspicion, family secrets emerge, and he must decide how much to pay for redemption.
Dutton. 404 pages. $26.95. ISBN: 0525950125

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"[A] gripping legal thriller. … The characters are authentic, the writing spare, and the courtroom drama so riveting that the clumsiness of the solution … nearly slips by." Hallie Ephron

Globe and Mail [Toronto] 4 of 5 Stars
"Before this complex tale of love and betrayal is done, Copeland is faced with many family secrets and lies. The final twist is as good as it gets." Margaret Cannon

South FL Sun-Sentinel 4 of 5 Stars
"While some writers use a formula to produce dry, lethargic stories, Coben turns his familiar blueprint … into exciting, involving thrillers. … Coben also knows how to make [his] contrivances work to his advantage, sweeping the reader into the story’s outcome." Oline H. Cogdill

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Don’t read too fast; it’s easy to miss a crucial fact in Coben’s swiftly flowing style. I had to reread the denouement to get it all straight." Pohla Smith

Tampa Tribune 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The guilt is an ever-present theme, one that propels Cope to figure out what’s going on. … So what if the characters are a little thinly developed? The dialogue is sharp, and the action is fast-paced." Esther Hammer

Washington Post 1.5 of 5 Stars
"Coben’s fans, who’ve made several of his books bestsellers, will think the novel good because it’s a lively, fast-moving entertainment, jampacked with the bizarre plot twists that are his stock in trade. But the novel is bad because Coben misses no opportunity to jazz it up and dumb it down." Patrick Anderson

Critical Summary

In this stand-alone legal thriller, Harlan Coben presents a riveting courtroom drama, creates riveting players, and delves into family secrets, love, loss, mistakes, and betrayal. A few critics noted that while The Woods falls into Coben’s typical formula—a past crime affects innocent people in the present—it still comes off as fresh. The trial scenes, Cope’s ruminations on what really happened that night, and the back-and-forth narration are particularly well done. Only the Washington Post faulted the novel’s cheap thrills, improbable revelations, and awkward conclusion. Nevertheless, few readers will remain unaffected by its emotional heft.

Also by the Author

No Second Chance (2003): 3.5 of 5 Stars July/Aug 2003. Kidnappers kill Dr. Marc Seidman’s wife and take his infant daughter, demanding $2 million for her safe return. Marc pays them, but they don’t return Tara—and he starts a yearlong search for her.