Settling down to a Harlan Coben book is a bit like dropping in to your favourite restaurant or café: you know you’re going to get a good meal. And the always-reliable Coben has served up another tasty dish with The Boy From The Woods.
The basic premise is full of flavour: in one of the most bizarre cases in US history, a young boy – probably no older than eight – is discovered living alone and wild in dense forest in New Jersey. There have been rumours and strange, fleeting sightings for a long time, but no-one really believed he existed. But here he is, filthy, tangle-haired, with no knowledge of his own name or who his parents are, but somehow able to speak and understand English. And we’re off.
They call him Wilde, and it’s the name the boy carries into adult life. He was discovered living in the woods back in 1986, and something else Wilde has kept as part of his identity is a weird, almost supernatural ability to track animals – and people. So, when a bullied teenage schoolgirl, Naomi Pine, suddenly vanishes without a trace, it’s Wilde who they turn to.
Matthew, a classmate of Naomi, feels guilty he didn’t intervene to stop the bullying and blames himself for her disappearance. He turns to his grandmother, Hester, a chic, sleek TV host, for help, and soon Wilde’s tracking skills are called in. There’s something of writer Lee Child’s character Jack Reacher in Wilde; a loner, a man of mystery. I think I fell a little in love with him.