Friday, 19 July 2013

Six Years by Harlan Coben

Publication Date: 19th March 2013
Published by: Dutton Adult

Genre: Mystery Thriller

Jake Sanders is a college professor in his mid thirties.  The story begins with him attending a wedding and the bride is the love of his life.  He finds it painful to watch but feels he has to do so in order to help him accept that she has chosen to be with someone else.  After the ceremony, Natalie, the bride approaches him.  She tells him he must accept that she does not love him and her marriage should be proof of this.  Then she asks him to promise never to try to contact her or her husband again, which he agrees to. Heartbroken, Jake returns to his life of academia but he cannot forget Natalie and thinks of her everyday.  Even so he makes no attempt to contact her.

Six years later Jake sees an obituary on the university website.  He recognises the face of the dead man and realises it is Todd, Natalie's husband.  This brings back old memories and, despite his promise, he feels compelled to seek her out and offer his condolences.  He attends the funeral but, to his surprise, the grieving widow is not Natalie but some other woman.  He starts to wonder if it could be a case of mistaken identity - that this is a different Todd - but is not convinced that this is the case.  He starts to do some digging, starting with a telephone call to Natalie's sister but he gets a frosty response and is none the wiser after their conversation.  He visits the area in Vermont where he met Natalie, the same place she got married but, strangely, all the people he met while he was there six years previously now claim not to remember him or know who Natalie is.  It is as if he imagined the whole thing.  Jake is determined to get to the bottom of things and hopefully find Natalie.

During Jake's attempts to find Natalie he finds many doors closed to him - no one wants to talk about it and most people want him to drop it.  He doesn't, and soon he starts to attract the attention of some unsavory characters, who it turns out are also looking for Natalie.

Six Years is a mystery with an intricate plot that has been executed fairly well (although not without holes).  Although I could work out in general what was going on:  Was the the wedding genuine or staged?  Why doesn't Natalie want to be found?  Could it be that she is running from something?  Could it be that she is trying to protect someone?  All that stuff is pretty obvious.  However, the reasons for her disappearance and how it ties in with events and links to characters involved is not so obvious, which keeps the story fresh and there are a few twists in there also.  I usually give examples of plot holes in order to back-up my statement but in this case it would be hard to do so without ruining the plot - so I'm afraid you'll have to take my word for it on this occasion (sorry).

I wasn't keen on the writing style if I am honest. There was too much of Jake explaining stuff to the reader that wasn't necessary - the reader is already two steps ahead and is left waiting for Jake to catch up. 

At first I found Jake to be self-righteous and a bit preachy (but he is a lecturer after all).  He does go on about what he believes to be right: How a professor should behave with his students, Why fraternizing with them is a no no, Why in the past he felt strongly about bringing down a colleague who failed to live up to his rules while other members of the faculty were willing to look at the circumstances and be more flexible.  Of course this is the protagonists personality and that's all fine - one does not have to like him or her in order for a story to be enjoyed, after all.  Also, these characteristics turn out to be key to the plot - which I thought was very well done.

Six Years is a light and easy read.  By no means brilliant but not at all bad either. That said, I did not find it particularly gripping and would not call it thrilling either, unlike Undreamed which is a better alternative in my view.  Gone Girl is also a better alternative.

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