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Promise Me    by Harlan Coben order for
Promise Me
by Harlan Coben
Order:  USA  Can
Dutton, 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Since I've only read the more recent of Harlan Coben's thrillers, Myron Bolitar - who has reappeared after a long absence - was new to me. Myron, once a basketball player with the Boston Celtics, is now a high profile sports and entertainment agent. As the story opens, he's holding 'a "coming out" party' for himself and freelance magazine writer (and 9/11 widow) Ali Wilder as a couple. At the party, Myron overhears two high school seniors (Erin and Aimee) talking and pushes them to promise to call him at any time rather than to drive with anyone who's been drinking.

This sets in train a convoluted sequence of events and twisty plot turns, as has become Coben's trademark. It starts when Aimee calls Myron in the middle of the night and asks him to pick her up in the city - she makes him promise not to tell her parents, and he drops her off at what she says is a friend's house. Then she disappears. Her use of a particular ATM machine links her case to that of another missing teenager, Katie. Myron is soon under investigation by the police. When Katie's shady father finds out about Myron's involvement, he sends psychotic thugs, the Twins, after him (their bite is much worse than their bark). Luckily, Myron's best friend Win is even deadlier.

Other players in the drama include Aimee's mother and father, her boyfriend Randy and his protective parents (the moms and dads in this story will go to incredible lengths to assure their children's futures), Livingston High School teachers, and an elderly doctor who spotted Katie in the city. Other characters seem to be there more for continuity with the earlier Bolitar books than out of plot necessity - including Myron's previous soulmate Jessica Culver who has a brief walk on part, and his delightful El Al parents (his worries over them - and vice versa - ring true to life). As the story develops, the violence escalates, and surprises unfold to the very end.

In Promise Me, Harlan Coben explores the intense feelings parents have for their children, and the extreme things they will do to keep them safe. Myron Bolitar does ultimately keep his promise to Aimee's mother, and decides that helping people - despite the inevitable failures - is what he wants to continue doing with his life. So I expect he'll be back for further welcome encores.

2nd Review by Tim Davis:

Former NBA basketball player Myron Bolitar, the forty-something owner of the Manhattan-based sports personality and entertainment talent agency MB Reps, admits that he has established quite a reputation for getting involved in other people's lives. As he says to an acquaintance in his hometown of Livingston, New Jersey, 'You must have heard this is what I do. I help people when they're in trouble.'

So, having overheard his friends' daughter, eighteen-year old Aimee Biel, when she talked to a classmate about relying upon friends who may or may not have her best interests at heart, Myron - of course - offers his advice and assistance: 'Please listen to me, okay? If you're ever in a bind. If you're ever out drinking or your friends are drinking or you're high or stoned or I don't care what. Promise me. Promise me you'll call me. I'll come get you wherever you are. I won't ask questions. I won't tell your parents. That's my promise to you. I'll take you wherever you want to go. I don't care how late. I don't care how far away you are. I don't care how wasted. Twenty-four seven. Call me and I'll pick you up.'

Then, not long afterward, Aimee makes a late night phone call to Myron who immediately drives to a specific intersection in Manhattan where he picks up Aimee and - without telling her parents - gives her a ride and drops her off at Aimee's friend's house in nearby Ridgewood, New Jersey. However, when Aimee ultimately fails to return to her parents' home, and when she seemingly vanishes without a trace, Myron suddenly finds himself confronted by Aimee's parents and local law enforcement officials. After all, Myron was the last person to have seen Aimee. Now he is a 'person of interest' in the young woman's disappearance.

Making matters worse, Katie Rochester, another eighteen-old woman from Livingston, has also recently disappeared. The daughter of a man whose connections with organized crime make him especially dangerous, Katie - by coincidence? - had been last seen in precisely the same Manhattan neighborhood where Myron picked up Aimee Biel. Of course, when Katie's father learns of Myron's involvement in Aimee Biel's disappearance, Myron's life is about to get much more complicated and extremely dangerous. He is even receiving anonymous telephone threats: 'You're a bastard. Do you hear me, Myron? A bastard. And you will pay for what you did.'

So, keeping one step ahead of the police while at the same time trying to avoid the dangers posed by the missing girls' angry parents and the threatening caller, Myron must move quickly and carefully to uncover clues to the two girls' fates and - at the same time - save himself.

And so the stage is set for Harlan Coben's contemporary mystery thriller. Fast-paced and filled with suspense, excitement, and complex characterizations, Promise Me - a top-notch novel with plenty of action as well as astute insights into human nature and relationships - moves along smartly and inexorably toward a classic, golden-age dénouement in the final pages when the tangled threads of the adroitly constructed plot are finally unraveled and the solution to the mystery is revealed.

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