Win (2021) by Harlan Coben

“I’m not sounding like the hero of this story, am I?”

Windsor Horne Lockwood III – known as Win – has an interesting view of the world. Insanely rich and with a strong, if slightly skewed, moral code, he is about to be pulled into events that are run far closer to home than he would like.

Twenty years ago, his cousin Patricia was abducted when her family home was robbed and her father killed. She escaped from the so-called “Hut of Horrors” – the first of many victims to ever do so – but her abductors escaped too.

Now a man has been found dead in his penthouse in New York City, a man with links to a domestic terrorist links. Found with his body, however, are a priceless Vermeer painting – stolen from the Lockwood collection – and a suitcase belonging originally to Win. A suitcase that was taken the same night that Patricia was abducted…

I have very fond memories of Harlan Coben’s books. In my post-Christie, pre-discovering Carr years when I was struggling to find crime writers that I liked (and to be honest, being completely unaware of the scores of classic crime writers that were hiding out there), there were two US writers that I would always keep an eye out for, namely Jeffrey Deaver and Harlan Coben, in particular his Myron Bolitar books. There were four that I remember reading, but then Coben decided to focus on standalone thrillers, only returning occasionally to Bolitar. I’ll be honest, I thought I’d forgotten about them, but when one of my regular emails from NetGalley popped up touting the latest Coben book, I thought, why not give it a go?

I’ve not had much luck with NetGalley requests recently. A few badly typeset (to the point of unreadability) titles and two recent books that I couldn’t read, but not for want of the production values. One involved a serial killer with every single sodding cliché in the book appearing in chapter one, and one being a cosy with a policeman who rotates back and forth from asking the sleuth for help and telling her off for interfering so fast, I’m amazed he didn’t get whiplash. So I approached this with trepidation…

… and after the first page, I couldn’t put it down. I had no idea (having not paid a massive amount of attention to the blurb) that this is a continuation of the Myron Bolitar-verse, missing the point entirely that the lead character is Bolitar’s best friend, Win, who more often than not would help Myron out of the odd scrape, usually, iirc, with some significant amount of violence. Here, he takes centre stage and we get to see inside his head, as he narrates this tale.

It takes a great storyteller to make a character as blunt as Win into a sympathetic protagonist, but we’re in safe hands here, as Coben knows exactly what he’s doing. This is a very confident book, with Win at times almost discussing the rationale for his actions with the reader in a very matter of fact kind of way, not in a way of easing his conscience.

As for the plot, there’s a lot of clever stuff going on here as Win hunts for the remaining members of the terrorist group with some genuine surprises here – in particular the identity of one of the killers is an impressive surprise, despite it making perfect sense. Coben does an excellent job of tying most of the events into a coherent whole – one strand is separate, to give a clear sense of Win’s morals – and it works a treat.

I’ll be completely honest here. I’ve mentioned several times about my difficulties getting into a book recently but from the first page, I could not put this one down (apart from sleeping – sorry, that took precedence) and read it in two sittings. The best mystery/thriller (as opposed to a straight mystery) that I’ve read in a long time and I really hope this is the start of a series featuring Win as a protagonist. He is such a mesmerising presence and a unique voice that I enjoyed tremendously and really want to read more of.

Win by Harlan Coben is released in the UK in hardback and ebook from Century/Penguin. Many thanks for the review e-copy.

5 comments

  1. Win was the best part of the Bolitar books, and I’ve had this reserved at the library since it first appeared on their system. Good to know it lands, as I’m really looking forward to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I hadn’t known about this one, but splitting off Win into his own story is a bit like Robert Crais putting Elvis Cole’s sidekick Joe Pike into the spotlight on occasion.

    I started reading Harlan Coben pretty near the beginning (though I too have fallen off of late). I think of his writing as falling into three streams.

    1. Myron Bolitar novels.
    2. Bolitar-adjacent books — like Win, or the YA series with his nephew Mickey Bolitar as protagonist.
    3. Standalones — with a tendency to be set in New Jersey and to be devoted to the resolution of a great wrong that happened 20 years ago (a disappearance, a kidnapping, a death, whatever).

    Liked by 1 person

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