Run Away

Written by Harlan Coben

Review written by Ali Karim

Ali Karim was a Board Member of Bouchercon [The World Crime & Mystery Convention] and co-chaired programming for Bouchercon Raleigh, North Carolina in 2015. He is Assistant Editor of Shots eZine, British correspondent for The Rap Sheet and writes and reviews for many US magazines & Ezines.

Run Away
Century Penguin RandomHouse
RRP: £20
Released: March 21 2019

Renowned for his twisty, serpentine plots, we often overlook just how great a novelist and narrative stylist Harlan Coben truly is. His latest, Run Away is a thriller but also a novel that makes you think deeply as the pages race, not unlike protagonist Simon Greene’s journey to save his daughter, and ultimately his family.

Simon and his wife Ingrid Greene maybe suffering middle-class guilt, in failing their daughter Paige who has slipped through the cracks within their picture-perfect suburban life. The three children, Sam, Anya, and Paige have all the opportunities afforded by their parents, New York professionals in paediatric medicine, and with PPG Wealth Management in the financial sector.

But something goes wrong.

Paige fell through the cracks within society, dropping into the hidden (and scary) world masked from middle-class view; namely a life controlled by Aaron Corval, a drug dealer and criminal. It appears Paige’s life derailed after leaving home for Lanford College, but when the reader is in the hands of Harlan Coben, little can be taken at face value.

The action commences on page one, when Simon traces his daughter Paige begging in New York’s Central Park. What starts as a plea for his daughter’s return turns ugly when Simon confronts Corval. A fracas ensues and is caught on camera-phone. When released online, ‘the court of public opinion’ starts to comment on the footage, and Simon becomes a figure of notoriety.  The Greene’s family life becomes affected, including a call from their daughter Anya’s private school Abernathy Academy who are trying to distance themselves from the infamy of Anya’s father. However, things turn sinister when Paige’s boyfriend, the drug dealer and criminal Aaron Corval, is found dead in the scruffy Bronx apartment they shared. Police scrutiny and suspicion falls upon Simon, as well as his missing daughter, Paige Greene.

Coben’s ability to work with a large cast of characters is on display to great effect in Run Away. We have quite an array of major players, as well as secondary characters, and some obscured by shadow. They are all delineated vividly for the reader, and without massive descriptions, rather with narrative brush strokes, with concise flourishes that make them stand bolt-upright on the page. Perhaps, none so vivid as the Chicago PI, Elana Ramirez of VMB Investigations. Ramirez is working for a man named Sebastian Thorpe III, who has engaged the Chicago PI’s services in order to track his 24-year-old son Henry, who like Paige, is also missing.

The trail leads to a mystery in Italy, by way of a New Jersey tattoo parlour, and the death of a man named Damien Gorse. It seems that the dead drug dealer Aaron Corval’s father Wiley was married to a mysterious woman named Bruna, from Italy. Or was he? And what does Enid Corval know (or suspect) that lurks on the road between Pisa and Florence in Tuscany, Italy?

The trail then leads to Eileen Vaughan, Paige’s roommate at Lanford College. Suspicions are aroused about aspects of Paige’s college-life that are striated with incongruity, when contrasted to her family life. Then there’s side characters Ash and Dee-Dee, as well as a Cult that promises A Shining Truth.

As ever in the hands of Harlan Coben, the hidden aspects of families (and their lives) are what powers the engine to this narrative. Like in Coben’s breakout work, Tell No One, the affable and entertaining writing style belays a darker side, a vicious aspect that will become exposed and indicate that some family lives are troubling, and hold dangerous secrets.

Run Away, is Harlan Coben at the height of his narrative mastery, for this novel is slippery, slick in how the pages turn so fast. There is entertainment within, but more importantly, there is insight, as it provokes thought about what is hidden in our lives and that of those, we call family. Under the veneer that some suburban family life resembles there is often shadow as Coben asks ‘do we really know who our family members really are?’ Or more importantly, we can find that what is hidden in the mundane, can become deadly if exposed to the light. Though there are smatterings of humour (deftly applied), that helps bring the light into a dark and disturbing story.

Terrific as an insightful Novel, but as thriller it is a narcotic, but one that makes you think deeply, very deeply – unmissable.

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