RUN AWAY - by Harlan Coben

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Published: April 2019 - Century.
Genres: Adult / contemporary / mystery / thriller.  
Pages: 384.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Violence / sexual innuendos / themes of rape and sexual abuse. 
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Penguin Random House SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. I voluntarily read & reviewed this copy. All thoughts are my own.

You've lost your daughter. She's addicted to drugs and to an abusive boyfriend. And she's made it clear that she doesn't want to be found. Then, quite by chance, you see her busking in New York's Central Park. But she's not the girl you remember. This woman is wasted, frightened and clearly in trouble. You don't stop to think. You approach her, beg her to come home. She runs. And you follow her into a dark and dangerous world you never knew existed. Where criminal gangs rule, where drugs are the main currency, and murder is commonplace.

Now it's your life on the line. And nowhere and no one is safe.

The best thing about Coben's writing style? It does not waste time. There's enough detail to get you grounded, but Coben knows exactly why we're reading: to enjoy one heck of a ride. As a result, the prose is terse, the dialogue witty and succinct, and the action starts right away. There's no extravagance. It cuts to the bone.

As I said, the action begins from the start. We're immediately knocked into the frightening situation unfolding for these characters, and like Simon, we're compelled to follow them to the dark and dangerous places they lead. Like all good thrillers, this novel keeps a breathless pace, and it's near impossible to put down. I also love how it isn't just thrills - there's some real humanness to this story, which should actually be obvious by the synopsis, and it isn't hard to feel for these characters and their situation. I was even surprised when at one point I thought a character was going to die and suddenly I was on the edge of my seat thinking no no no, not him! Don't let him die!

 He thought about life choices, about bad decisions and forks in the road, and what moves, what sliding doors, had led Paige to this hell-spawned place. It was his fault wasn't it? Of course it had to be in some way. The butterfly effect. Change one thing, you change everything. The constant what-ifs - if only he could go back and change something." 

In the past when I've read Coben's books, I haven't been impressed by his characters. They've never struck me as particularly vivid or three-dimensional. But in this novel, it's different. While I never warmed to Simon, I loved the rest of the cast (especially Cornelius and Elena) and was taken aback by how compelling they were and how invested in their lives I was.
I also adore the fact that there are so many female characters, which isn't something I see very often in thrillers. To my delight, so many of the lead roles were taken by women; there's Ingrid, Suzy, Paige, Dee Dee, Anya, Yvonne, Eileen, Alison, Mother Adoina, Elena, Heather.... so so many! And it's fantastic. These are female characters with their own agency, their own stories, their own kickass attitudes - women who are killers, criminals, drug addicts, mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, cops. A diverse female cast?! I think so.

Run Away is a taut, harrowing thriller that delves into its characters' lives and uncovers terrifying secret after terrifying secret. With his trademark twists and breakneck pace, Harlan Coben has crafted another exceptional story. 

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