Sunday 21 October 2012

Review: Seconds Away by Harlan Coben (Mickey Bolitar Book 2)

This action-packed follow-up to international bestseller Harlan Coben's striking young adult novel, Shelter, follows Mickey Bolitar as he continues to hunt for clues about the Abeona Shelter and the mysterious death of his father - all while trying to navigate the challenges of a new high school.

When tragedy strikes close to home, Mickey and his loyal new friends - sharp-witted Ema and the adorably charming Spoon - find themselves at the centre of a terrifying mystery involving the shooting of their classmate Rachel. Now, not only does Mickey need to keep himself and his friends safe from the Butcher of Lodz, but he needs to figure out who shot Rachel - no matter what it takes.

Mickey Bolitar is as quick-witted and clever as his uncle Myron, but with danger just seconds away, it is going to take all of his determination and help from his friends to protect the people he loves, even if he does not know who - or what - he is protecting them from.

I will start off this review by saying that I have not read any of Harlan Coben's adult crime thrillers. These days I don't seem to read a great deal of crime, even though ten years ago my shelves were filled with the likes of Jeffery Deaver, J.A. Kerley, Mark Billingham, Val McDermid, Richard Montanari.... The list could go on and on, but at some point, somewhere along the line, I seem to have stopped reading crime (although from the above you will be able to see that I was fond of a particular type of crime novel). However, when the lovely people at Indigo sent me a copy of Harlan Coben's first YA crime novel, Shelter, sometime last year I started reading it immediately. And I loved it. I've looked back through my blog looking for the review I thought I had written for Shelter, but either I imagined posting it or, like one or two other posts seem to have done recently, it has just disappeared.

Seconds Away picks up straight after the events of Shelter, and you really have to have read the  first book in the series for this one to make a great deal of sense. For those of you who read Shelter a year ago and may have forgotten key elements of the story have no fear - Coben cleverly weaves enough reminders into the opening chapters to refresh your mind of the events in that first book, and also the bombshell he dropped at the close of the book that has left fans begging for more ever since.

I know that there have been some readers who were left a little confused at the end of Shelter, as there seemed to be two very different elements to it. For the most part it was a gritty crime thriller, with Mickey Bolitar and his new friends being drawn into a thrilling and deadly mystery rooted firmly in modern crime. However, there also seemed to be something of a supernatural element to the series spanning story arc, an element that seemed more than a little out of place in a straight crime story. Ninety year old ex Nazis who still look young, anybody? In Seconds Away Coben gradually reveals more information behind this element and by the end readers will have a much better understanding of this, and like me they will also be just as hungry for the next instalment.

As with Shelter then there are two stories going on in this sequel. There is the standalone element - Mickey's friend Rachel is injured and her mother killed in a shooting at her house, and Mickey, Ema and Spoon set out to solve the mystery - and then there is the greater mystery: that surrounding Mickey's life, the death of his father, the Bat Lady, the Butcher of Lodz and the Abeona Shelter. Coben uses all of his writing experience and expertise to craft a story that has you racing through the pages, desperate to get to the solution to both mysteries. And there is no point second guessing either - the plot twists and turns like an Alpine giant slalom, and just as you think you have guessed 'whodunnit', somthing else is revealed and you find yourself staring open mouthed as the letters W.R.O.N.G. flash teasingly through your brain.

Crime is a genre that has huge adult appeal, with book stores having ranks of shelves dedicated to authors of these books. However, it is only in the last eighteen months or so that it has crossed over to the YA market, with the likes of Harlan Coben, Colin Mulhern, Niall Leonard and Peter Cocks writing for this younger age group. I know some of the boys at school much prefer these kind of stories that are grounded in a realism that they can relate to, as opposed to fantasy and horror stories. Seconds Away was published in hardback by Indigo earlier this month and my thanks go to the publishers for sending me a copy to review. 


  1. Hi, Im a new follower and have just finished reading this book :) I love Harlan Coben as an author. Check out my blog at

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