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Review: In 'Long Lost' by Harlan Coben, a sports agents is thrust into an international intrigue

Long Lost is an organic thriller that rises from the mundane events of everyday life and soon becomes one of those pulse-quickening stories that keeps us madly ripping through the pages.

Harlan Coben's hero is sports agent Myron Bolitar, another one of those accidental detectives that make this genre so much fun. After a bittersweet opening in which Bolitar's character is established as he loses his latest love, a phone call from a former flame sends him on a trans-Atlantic journey. He hasn't seen the woman in 10 years — not since they spent a season of mad-monkey love on a Caribbean island. It was one of those no-questions-asked affairs, and she wants him to come to Paris this time, on the same contract.

And so we learn what drove her to that island a decade ago — an accident that put her into a two-month coma and killed her daughter. Now she's in Paris at the request of her ex-husband (the child's death drove them apart), and there's a chance maybe the daughter didn't die after all.

The book quickly moves from the opening sequence at a middle school basketball game to international intrigue and terrorism. At first, a sports agent might seem like an odd sleuth, but the intelligence that serves Bolitar so well in his 9-to-5 helps him think on his feet when the bullets start flying at a Parisian sidewalk cafe.

This model of a paranoid thriller is the kind of thing Robert Ludlum used to write 30 years ago. Coben writes with more grace and wit — Bolitar speaks in Groucho Marx-like comic asides — and he matches the creator of the Jason Bourne franchise in intensity. Bolitar's associates — the heavily armed and very wealthy Win and Esperanza, a wrestler turned sports agent — help bridge the gap between the improbable one-man-against-the-world army and the feeling that this story, built around the breeding of blond, blue-eyed Muslim terrorists, could actually happen.

William McKeen teaches journalism at the University of Florida.

Long Lost

By Harlan Coben

Dutton, 371 pages, $27.95

Review: In 'Long Lost' by Harlan Coben, a sports agents is thrust into an international intrigue 05/02/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 2, 2009 4:30am]
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