So, what does it take to make it to the cover of Writer’s Digest? I decided to find out. Off I went to the library to pick up a Harlan Coben book. To be honest, after reading the first chapter of Hold Tight, I thought, “If it’s this violent all the way through, I’m not going to read it.” However, he was just setting the scene, the way they do in crime dramas on TV. (In fact, it wasn’t as graphic as some shows I’ve watched.) I mention Hold Tight simply because it was so well written, I found myself wanting to read another of Coben’s books.

Caught was written just last year, so I was pleased to find it in our local library (after having contemplated purchasing it). Although I’m not quite finished, I wanted to write this week’s review before heading out-of-province.

From these two books, what would I conclude gives you a chance at becoming a featured author?

1. First lines like “I knew opening that red door would destroy my life.” (Tell me, don’t you want to read it already?)

2. Real characters, people who could be your neighbours–many of whom, of course, you wouldn’t want as neighbours

3. Taking the story in a straight line just long enough so the reader thinks she knows where it’s going, only to take a sharp turn when least expected

4. Characters and situations that seem to have nothing to do with one another skillfully woven together by the end

5. Enough description to paint a clear picture without bogging down the reader

6. True-to-life dialogue and relationships

7. Hours and hours of research

8. Enough hints so the reader can try to figure it out

9. Enough surprises that he never can–until the end

10. An ending that is cathartic without being unrealistically happy

Yes, Coben’s work definitely falls into the category of “Secular Fiction,” but as a Christian, I personally was not offended by the writing. Even though Coben’s books are about criminal acts, they are not described in extensive detail–not even in Hold Tight. The “off colour language” is truly kept to a minimum. The sexual content…minimal, even in the area of innuendo. If even a little of this content offends, I would not recommend these books. However, if you watch shows like CSI and NCIS, I think you will enjoy Coben’s writing.


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