Book Report: Harlan Coben ‘Stay Close’
Stay Close is a standalone by American thriller writer Harlan Coben, known for his series starring Myron Bolitar. Some of his books have also been filmed. In Stay Close, a man is missing. That is why Megan returns after seventeen years and knows that she must tell what happened then and why she left her old life that day. She hopes that she can quickly inform the police with a conversation and then return to her normal life. But then things get out of hand.
- Main characters
- Symbols and motifs
- Structure and perspective / way of telling
- Time and place
- Original title: Stay close
- Dutch title: Stay close
- Author: Harlan Coben
- First busy in English: 2012
- First edition translated into Dutch: 2012
- Translation: Karien Gommers
- Number of pages: 351
- ISBN: 978-90-225-6890-3
Detective Broome visits Sarah, whose husband had disappeared 17 years ago. Broome could never have resolved nor let go of the case. He had developed a close relationship with Sarah and her children. Now another man disappeared on the same day, Carlton Flynn, which cannot be a coincidence for Broome. In recent years, men had disappeared in February, but not on that specific day. However, it is not yet clear to him whether there is a connection between those men and Sarah’s husband, Stewart. He questions Tawny, a club dancer in La Crème, where Carlton is a regular. Tawny was Carlton’s favorite girl. But he showed that in a strange way, by mistreating her. She doesn’t know where he might be and can’t help Broome any further.
Broome receives a call from Harry, a notorious but honest lawyer. He informs him that Cassie, the club dancer who disappeared at the same time as Stewart Green, is in his office. Cassie wants to speak to Broome and answer his questions too. But afterwards she plans to disappear again and take up her current life as Megan. Broome is told by Cassie that Stewart assaulted her and was a real psychopath.
What Broome hears is just like Carlton’s description Tawny gave him. Cassie had threatened to tell Stewart’s wife everything in the hope that he would leave her alone. One night she was out for a walk and discovered Stewart lying on the floor covered in blood. She knew she was going to be the first suspect, causing her to panic and run away. From then on she started her new identity as Megan.
Broome had enlisted the help of Erin, his ex-wife, who is also his ex-partner. She had watched several video footage of the club and found a connection with all the men who had disappeared. Until now, they’d only linked Stewart and Carlton as they disappeared on the same date, but now Erin understands it’s about the same day. More specifically on Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday, the day a parade is organized and just then several men have disappeared. While Broome follows up on the case, his boss, Commissioner Goldberg, tries to pass all the info on for payment to Ken, a man known for his assaults hired by Del Flynn, Carlton’s father.
Broome and Erin fear they are dealing with a serial killer. Broome calls Cassie’s lawyer Harry so he can speak to her again and also show the photo Ray had anonymously sent to the police. When Cassie sees the photo she immediately recognizes the place, because it is where she found Stewart. But now Carlton’s body is in that place. She also immediately recognizes the work of Ray with whom she once had a relationship, but she hides that from Broome. She does inform him that someone had recently seen Stewart alive. That Lorraine, the bartender of La Crème, is the person who gave her that information, she keeps to herself.
After seeing the picture, Cassie is completely confused. She needs to find Ray and know what that picture means. Would he know what exactly happened seventeen years ago? They are both happy to see each other again, despite the many questions. Cassie explains to Ray that she has come back following Carlton’s disappearance. She wants to know what happened. She tells Ray what happened seventeen years ago. Ray immediately understands that she ran away because she feared he had killed Stewart. Cassie had never returned because she feared the police would suspect either of them.
Broome finds blood at the site of the photo that could prove that Carlton was murdered there. His colleague had had a similar case in the same place twenty years ago and the culprit Mannion was still locked up. Broom decides to speak to Mannion. During the conversation, Mannion tells that he is innocent and has been in prison for almost twenty years for nothing. Broome feels the man is right, but there is too little evidence. He promises Mannion to work on it.
Ken and Barbie
Carlton’s father, Del Flynn, has hired a notorious couple to find his son. Ken and Barbie had already visited Tawny and Cassie’s lawyer, where they had already gathered some information.
When Megan opens her door, Broome is in front of her. He tells her that Harry has been found dead and that he fears she is not safe because she was the last to call him. She remembers that when she visited Harry and he was probably already dead, she had mated a couple. But she cannot help Broome directly either. Broome confides in her and tells her what they have discovered so far. But he also notices that Megan hasn’t told him everything and has to put in some effort before he finds out who Ray is and where to find him.
Not much later, Megan is attacked with a knife by Barbie, who had effectively found her through the last phone call she made to Harry. Strengthened by her anger and urge to survive, she succeeds after a painful fight to overpower and kill Barbie.
During their search of the place where Carlton and Stewart were found, Broome and his colleague find the mass grave of the serial killer.
Despite his flaws, Del loves his son very much. The disappearance destroys him and he hopes to find Carlton as soon as possible. He is therefore devastated when he learns that his son has been murdered. Del is told by Chief Goldberg that Carlton has been the victim of a serial killer. He therefore asks to stop the search. But when Del Ken calls there is no answer.
Ray is arrested on suspicion of murder. Broome asks Cassie to have another conversation with Ray, hoping to find out the truth. Ray admits it was a painful misunderstanding. He had followed her and discovered Stewart a little later. He was convinced that Cassie had killed him and out of love, Ray had made the body disappear.
Goldberg and Erin discover that years ago Lorraine murdered her husband on Mardi Gras after assaulting her for the umpteenth time. Megan also begins to suspect that Lorraine is behind it. It was she who claimed that Stewart was still alive and there were still things that are not correct.
Broome, who is convinced she has to save Lorraine after learning she hadn’t come to work. But he’ll be late … for Ken. He is held at gunpoint while Lorraine tells him about the annual murders of men with loose hands. Ill and dying, Lorraine surrenders, on the condition that Broome will support her in her agony, which he doesn’t mind.
Ray is released after pointing to where he dumped the body. Mannion is also declared innocent and is released after all these years and Megan takes up her boring, but blissful life again.
He is a photographer and works as a fake paparazzi in a company that gives people the opportunity to be a celebrity for a while. His hair is always messy and he has deep blue eyes.
He has a criminal record for three robberies. He is twenty-six years old and divorced.
Megan / Cassie / Maigin
She is married to Dave and they have two children: Jordan and Kaylie. Dave is a lawyer with a busy schedule. Megan used to be known as Cassie as a club dancer at La Crème. She had fled the same time Stewart had disappeared. Her real name is Maigin Reilly. She had been in a relationship with Ray in the past, whom she had not had contact with since she ran away.
He had worked with his ex-wife Erin for years. Stewart’s disappearance continued to haunt him and he could never have solved it.
He’s Broome’s boss, but a policeman with fewer principles and values. He is not averse to bribes, for example. He still has to work for another year and then he can retire. His new sweetheart is twenty-eight years old and a porn star.
Ken and Barbie
They are young and attractive. Together they form a violent couple, who want to find all information about the disappearance of Carlton.
He is Carlton’s father. Darya is his third wife, twenty years his junior. His ex Maria is Carlton’s mother. He is one of the largest suppliers of restaurant goods.
Symbols and motifs
Erin has a new life with a different husband and children and Broome has a different place in her life, with less meaning. But despite that, Broome has continued to love his ex-wife.
Cassie is the only woman Ray has ever loved.
Megan’s life is a big lie. Since meeting her husband, she had lied and one lie was followed by another until she couldn’t go back.
Ray had searched everywhere for years after Cassie’s disappearance. He wasn’t sure if she was dead or not. That insecurity had destroyed him.
Every person has several faces.
Structure and perspective / way of telling
The book is dedicated to the writer’s aunts and uncles. The story consists of 351 pages, which are divided into 38 chapters and an epilogue. The story provides the point of view of Ray Levine, Megan, Tawny, Ken and Barbie, Harry Sutton, Dave, Del Flynn and Erin, which is written in third person.
Time and place
The story is set in the present in Atlantic City and Kasselton.
Harlan Coben is a master of writing thrillers about people with a secret and here too he manages to build the tension around different secrets, all returning to a moment. The characters are well developed and speak directly. The story starts slowly, but once the tension is there, it cannot be stopped. The denouement is good, but will be completed very quickly.