I’ve been a big fan of Harlan Coben’s thrillers for a long time. His clever, complicated stories always challenge the reader to “keep up”. And simultaneously, lull readers into a sense of false comfort because each tale is authentic and “real world”.
I lived in the metro NYC area for years. I can tell you that Harlen Coben was always able to channel the hopes, fears, and the anxious dread that, for so many, goes hand in hand with that kind of suburban living. His protagonists seem like people next door who get caught up in situations far beyond anything they could imagine. And then Coben ratchets the tension up. It always gets worse for the characters.
This visionary writer struck a deal with Netflix to produce short series based up on his books. And you know what? I think that an 8-episode story is just about the perfect length to adapt his books. In the old days, back when we’d all go to movie theaters to watch movies, the “big win” for an author was seemingly to have her or his work adapted into a 90-minute movie. Anyone who had read the book would, of course, be either disappointed that so much was cut, or constantly comparing and contrasting the merits of the prose version vs. the cinematic version. But today’s streaming shows are the perfect way to enjoy a filmed version of a book, without sacrificing huge chunks of the narrative or cutting back the cast of characters
Harlan Coben’s Stay Close is his latest book to be adapted by Netflix. It’s the story of a woman named Cassie (love that name – it’s big in my family) who’s been trying to put her sordid past behind her, and things just got more complicated. But caveat emptor (or should I say caveat lector, “Let the reader beware”?): Stay Close has a complicated, decades spanning plot with a large cast of characters. A storyteller like Coben can both confuse viewers and help them solve the puzzle – piece by piece- at the same time.
Of note: there’s a psychotic pair of killers in this series. They are creepy, wacky and they scared the bejeezus outta me. I don’t know where or when exactly these types of characters started, but I would venture to say that it may have begun with Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd from the 007 movie, Diamonds Are Forever (1971). In Ian Flemings book, these two eccentric killers weren’t nearly as memorable as their cinematic counterparts. Kudos to Coben for finding a way to improve upon this trope and deliver something fresh and memorable. And creeeeeeeepy.
For longtime Coben readers, there’s a lot of Easter eggs, including mentions of Ridgewood, Waldwick and Baumgarts Café. But the coolest part of Stay Close is the way this author keeps pushing it – and continues to deliver a clever mystery, keeping even a long-time mystery lover on the edge of his seat.
Note: The Innocent, from 2018, is another Coben book recently adapted into an 8-episode Netflix series, and I’d highly recommend that one too.