Harlen Coban is not a writer I would necessarily make a beeline for, and I would almost certainly not have read this if I hadn't been offered a review copy by, of all things, Sainsbury's e-books. Yes, not content with selling paperbacks, the supermarkets are now breaking into the e-book market. And -- which I suppose is their USP -- they are selling many of them at very low prices. Now I'm not a great lover of ebooks, and I haven't got a Kindle, but I do sometimes read them on my iPad or my phone, and that's how I read this one. Having a Kindle wouldn't be any good anyway, as you can't use it for these -- I downloaded a Sainsbury's e-reader onto my iPhone (you can get them on Android too, I believe), and passed some surprisingly happy hours.
But what about the book, I hear you say. It was good. I picked it because I had a vague memory of reading and enjoying one of Coban's books in the distant pre-blogging past -- no idea which one -- and was quite taken with the blurb:
It's a profile, like all the others on the online dating site. But as NYPD Detective Kat Donovan focuses on the accompanying picture, she feels her whole world explode, as emotions she's ignored for decades come crashing down on her. Staring back at her is her ex-fiancé Jeff, the man who shattered her heart 18 years ago. Kat feels a spark, wondering if this might be the moment when past tragedies recede and a new world opens up to her. But when she reaches out to the man in the profile, her reawakened hope quickly darkens into suspicion and then terror as an unspeakable conspiracy comes to light, in which monsters prey upon the most vulnerable. As Kat's hope for a second chance with Jeff grows more and more elusive, she is consumed by an investigation that challenges her feelings about everyone she ever loved - her former fiance her mother, and even her father, whose cruel murder so long ago has never been fully explained. With lives on the line, including her own, Kat must venture deeper into the darkness than she ever has before, and discover if she has the strength to survive what she finds there.
Clearly, online dating sites provide wonderful food for the crime novelist -- by chance, they feature very prominently in the book I reviewed here a few days ago, SJ Watson's Second Life. Like all online social media, they offer the possibility of assuming a false identity, and have the added bonus of appealing to the lonely and desperate, who are only too ready to be duped. Kat Donovan is not desperate, or even all that lonely, but she is alone and wouldn't mind a relationship. Her problem seems to be that she has never managed to forget Jeff, even after eighteen years. She thinks, briefly, that she's actually found him again, but his online responses don't measure up, and she soon realises that something very dodgy is going on. Meanwhile she has been contacted by a teenage boy who is desperately worried because he hasn't heard from his mother for some days. All he knows is that she met a man online and has gone off somewhere to spend some time with him. Alarm bells all round, then, especially when the site in question turns out to be the very same one where the possibly fake Jeff was hanging out. Luckily this lad is a skilled computer hacker, and he and Kat start getting very worried indeed by what he discovers, though they don't know the full magnitude of what is going on. We, the readers, do know it, however, and very horrid and scary it is. I don't think I'm giving too much away when I say everything turns out OK in the end for most people, though not for the bad guys -- well, this is a crime novel, so that's what you'd expect.
So this is good, entertaining, sort of middle of the road crime. Harlan Coban doesn't need any help from me as he's already a 6-year New York Times bestseller. But even though I won't be immediately seeking out any more of his books, I'd certainly pick one up if it came my way and I was in the mood. And if you like the sound of it, you can buy it at Sainsbury's ebooks for only £2.99. If you don't, why not check out the site anyway -- there are some great titles on there for as little as £1.99. And apparently you can also use your Nectar points if you have them.