Having read a few of Coben’s works, ‘Caught’ did live up to its expectation as another wonderfully wrapped thriller that layers puzzles after puzzles after puzzles on top of each other.
The lead character is news reporter Wendy Tynes, who works on a tabloid TV show that exposes pedophiles, murderers and other criminals to ‘bring them to justice.’
Interestingly, Tynes was crafted at the start of the book to take on a rather controversial and unlikeable role – a tabloid reporter busting suspected child pedophile Dan Mercer.
But Mercer was portrayed throughout the story as an unlikely criminal, – a sad, sorry orphan who despite scrapping his way to an Ivy League school still firmly believes that ‘my destiny is to be alone.’
And Coben threw in another piece of the puzzle through missing teenager Hayley McWaid, a mature but high-strung high school student, and her worried parents Ted and Marcia. Hayley’s sudden disappearance more than three months ago tore her family’s fabric apart, particularly for mum Marcia.
“It wasn’t as though Marcia spent all day looking for Hayley. She tried, but a horrible exhaustion kept creeping in. Marcia wanted to stay in bed in the morning. Her limbs felt heavy. Even now, making this odd pilgrimage down the corridor was difficult for her.
If you are familiar with Coben’s Myron Bolitar series, the disparate but intertwined story lines of ‘Caught’ breathed new air into the tried-and-tested plot built around the sports manager character. They also built up the pace and complexity of the story by throwing in more angles to work from, which contributes by piling on the suspense.Furthermore, an overarching theme underlying the book is the theme of forgiveness, an act that does not come easy for most, particularly if they have been wronged.
In the case of Tynes, the ghost of her late husband continued to haunt her even after more than a decade after he died in a drink-driving case. Despite the driver’s continued efforts to heal the wounds, explaining that she was still ‘an imperfect being worthy of forgiveness,’ Tynes remained angry and highly skeptical.
“I don’t care about you or your recovery or about Step Eight, but if you truly want to make amends, I suggest you walk outside, wait by the curb, and throw yourself under the first passing bus,” she ranted during a meeting with her husband’s murderer.
“If you truly want to make amends, Ariana, stop putting yourself first for once. Are you cured — totally cured, absolutely one hundred percent positive you’ll never drink again?”
Coben also went over the fence to elaborate on the mental and emotional anguish from the view of the perpetrators and their strong desire to seek closure for the wrongs committed in a moment of folly, resulting in irreversible and regrettable consequences.
Thriller this novel might be, but the themes of healing and reconciliation are what makes this novel real and emotionally appealing.
And it is no wonder that the novel ends with these three beautiful words:
“I forgive you.”
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’“
But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”
– Luke 15:21-24