Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"Good Things Are Rare" - Harlan Coben's "Live Wire"

(Mild Spoilers to follow)

The worst thing (and perhaps the only bad thing) about Harlan Coben’s new book is its title, “Live Wire.” It’s a great book, and it might just be the best Myron Bolitar book he’s ever written. “Live Wire” just doesn’t seem to be a title that’s worthy of the story inside the cover.

Many of the elements of “Live Wire” will be familiar to Coben readers – Myron’s emotional connection with his clients, his love for his family, and his relationship with Esperanza, his longtime co-worker (and now partner) in the agency he owns. But the most important relationship in the book is his relationship with Windsor Horne Lockwood III – “Win” to those few who can count him as a friend.

That the book might go in a slightly different direction from what one expects is evident in this exchange between Myron and Win, which occurs early on. Myron has just told Win about the problem – Suzze T, a former tennis star and client of Myron’s, has shown him a Facebook post which questions the paternity of her unborn child. And then her rock star husband, Lex, disappears. Naturally, she has asked for Myron’s help. And just as naturally, he asks for Win’s help. But then he’s surprised, as Win agrees all too readily.

“That’s not your usual modus operandi,” Myron said.

“Oh, do tell.”

“This is usually the part where you tell me that I’m an agent, not a private eye, and that you don’t see any purpose in doing this because there is no financial benefit to the firm.”

Win said nothing.

“Then you usually complain that I have a hero complex and always need to rescue someone in order to feel complete. And lastly – our should I say, most recently – you tell me how my interfering has actually done more harm than good, that I’ve ended up hurting and even killing more than I’ve saved.”

Win yawned. “Is there a point?”

“I thought it was pretty obvious but here it is: Why suddenly are you willing – enthusiastic even – about taking on this particular rescue mission when in the past…”

“In the past,” Win interrupted, “I always helped out, didn’t I?”

“For the most part, yes.”

Win looked up, tapped his chin with his index finger. “How to explain this?” He stopped, thought, nodded. “We have a tendency to believe good things will last forever. It is in our nature. The Beatles, for example. Oh, they’ll be around forever. The Sopranos – that show will always be on the air. Philip Roth’s Zuckerman series. Springsteen concerts. Good things are rare. They are to be cherished because they always leave us too soon.”

Win rose, started for the door. Before he left the room, he looked back.

“Doing this stuff with you,” Win said, is one of those good things.”

As usual, Myron and Win hit the road to try and solve the problem. Along the way, they encounter some very old acquaintances, the Ache brothers, old-style gangsters as deadly as they are clichéd. As usual, nothing is quite as it seems. And as usual, deep secrets buried in the past will have an enormous impact on what happens today.

It’s a familiar formula, and one that Coben has mined expertly for more than 15 years now. But there is something special about “Live Wire,” because Coben clearly seems to be closing a chapter in the lives of Myron and Win with this particular story. There are offhand references to the dynamic duo being on “the back nine of life,” there is the backstory of Myron’s father being close to death, and there is the family angle of Myron struggling to right the past wrongs that happened between he and his brother.

And then, Win does something so shocking, even in the context of a book like this, that you know things will never be the same. And that leads to the following scene featuring the two:

Myron hugged Win. Win hugged back. The hug was fierce and tight and lasted a long time. No words were exchanged – they would have just been superfluous. But Myron remembered what Win had said after Suzze first came to his office looking for help, about our tendency to think good things will last forever. They don’t. We think that we will always be young, that the moments and people we cherish are everlasting. But they’re not. As Myron held his friend in his arms, he knew that nothing would ever be the same between them. Something in their relationship had changed. Something was gone forever.

By the time you finish the book, you’re left to wonder if there will ever be another Myron Bolitar book. If there is, great. But if there isn’t, then Harlan Coben has come up with a magnificent way for Myron and Win to say goodbye.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I thought it was a terrible way to say goodbye. To put a blemish on this wonderful friendship leaves the reader feeling cold, cheated, and unable to reread and enjoy the previous books since you know where it's all going. It was like a beautiful love story ending in divorce. I felt a chill after the hug when the author said they'd lost something. Why not leave the friendship in tact? It all seemed like a sell out to start a new series.I felt walked on.