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Caught    by Harlan Coben order for
by Harlan Coben
Order:  USA  Can
Dutton, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Harlan Coben can be counted on for a gripping thriller that also makes readers think hard about the society they live in, and Caught is no exception to that rule. At its core is the power of the Internet as a tool to launch viral rumors, falsify perceptions, damage reputations, and destroy individual lives.

We follow two main story threads that ultimately intersect. The first relates to a community's desperate search for seventeen-year-old Haley McWaid, a model student who inexplicably went missing from suburban New Jersey. The second follows reporter Wendy Tynes, who runs sting operations that catch sexual predators on her Caught in the Act show on national television. Her latest involves social worker Dan Mercer, whom she'd met previously and admired - was he set up as he claims?

Mercer is arrested but the judge disallows the damning evidence found in his home 'because of the prejudicial nature of the press' and TV airing of events. Wendy is fired for her role as 'the overreaching reporter who helped free' a sick pedophile. After Dan Mercer calls the reporter to arrange a meet, he is shot. Though Wendy identifies the killer, Ed Grayson (the father of an abused boy) goes free for lack of evidence.

Disturbed that Grayson followed her to his victim and by her strong intuition that Mercer was not a pedophile despite all the evidence, Wendy digs deeper. She finds a disturbing pattern of Internet attacks on four men who were suitemates at Princeton, and have all been 'ruined in the past year by scandals'. She tracks their common history to a damaged source. Then someone who doesn't like what Wendy is discovering successfully attacks her online as well.

As always, Coben sets up a maze of a mystery for his protagonist and readers, with surprises at every turn, twisting along to the very last page. Wendy Tynes is unrelenting in seeking answers and understanding whether or not she set up an innocent man. She has help from an unexpected source and gets a badly needed lesson in forgiveness along the way. Harlan Coben is one of the best mystery writers around and he's at the top of his game with Caught. Don't miss it!

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