Summer Reading

Words gone wild! The best and the breeziest for beating the heat in 2002

Harlan Coben has once again mothballed the lovable, Yoo-Hoo-swilling sports agent sleuth Myron Bolitar. In his stead is Coben's second stand-alone mystery -- Gone for Good (Delacorte, $23.95) -- another witty-gritty gut-churner in the mold of 2000's bestselling Tell No One. Here, young Will Stein's world is shaken to its core for the second time. The first was 11 years prior when his 24-year-old brother Ken went fugitive after allegedly raping and killing his girlfriend in the well-to-do township of Livingston, New Jersey. Now, Will's dying mother reveals the family secret: Ken is alive, well, and innocent. While Will refuses to even entertain such a possibility -- his brother's notorious flight from justice has caused him enough heartbreak and ostracism -- he eventually uncovers a two-year-old photo of a man who, despite the gray-streaked beard and lined face, is unmistakably Ken Stein. From there, Gone for Good's devious plot unfolds as an origami web would to reveal a tiny but deadly spider at its center. Coben's reputation has done nothing but expand since Deal Breaker, his award-winning 1994 debut, and his latest ups the ante by a factor of 10. The eventual return of the iconoclastic Bolitar will be a welcome treat, but in the here-and-now Gone for Good is the best bet for whip-smart suspense.

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