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Authors: Harlan Coben

DARKEST FEAR

BOOK: DARKEST FEAR
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PRAISE FOR
DARKEST FEAR

“You race to turn pages … both suspenseful and often surprisingly funny …”

—People (Beach Book of the Week)

“Be prepared to weep buckets while reading
Darkest Fear ….
Endearing and over-the-top lovable … The author’s mysteries are well-constructed, clever and tautly wrapped in a well-scripted story line.”

—USA Today

“A terrific novel … Coben’s professionalism is clear from every paragraph in the book.”

—Boston Globe

“Fast-paced and layered with both fun and tenderness … Coben [is] a gifted storyteller.”

—The Denver Post

“Raymond Chandler meets Bridget Jones … a constant and increasing delight … reminds us that vulnerability and strength come in all sizes.”

—Chicago Tribune

“With its pretzel of a plot and page-turning pace,
Darkest Fear
is a winner.”

—The Orlando Sentinel

“This fast-paced story sent me to the bookstore … looking for his earlier books. With the kind of sharp dialogue you used to hear in an old Billy Wilder movie … you’ll be surprised that the story has so many pithy profundities about fatherhood.”

—Philadelphia News

“Wonderfully rich … The heart of the novel is, as always, the fallible but infinitely appealing, accessible figure of Myron Bolitar—a Don Quixote complete with knee brace and cell phone, ready to take on the world’s problems.”

—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“The darkness of the plot and the seriousness of the theme—the responsibilities of parenthood—give this installment added impact. Thought-provoking issues and mind-numbing terror made more real by their human context.”

—Booklist

“Crisp, focused prose, a wisecracking but gallant hero, and a busy plot make this essential for most collections.”

—Library Journal

“A brilliant story … excellent.”

—Midwest Review of Books

“A complete success on every level, with writing that sings with sharp wit, a white-knuckler of a plot, and well-drawn characters that can surprise you … stunning, complex …a marvel of carefully drawn-out tension. And just when you think Coben has made his last twist, there’s an even bigger one right around the corner …. Coben deserves to be catapulted up into the top ranks of contemporary American mystery writers.”

—Capital Times (Wisconsin)

“Chilling … [His characters] are as entertaining a gaggle of sleuths as any the genre has seen in, well, ever. Harlan Coben is smooth and versatile and his dialogue hums and throbs with character …. Coben can set ’em up and knock ’em down as good as the best of ’em and better than the rest of ’em.”

—Austin Chronicle

“A thriller with a spark that burns throughout … fast-moving … Coben’s Bolitar is not unlike Robert B. Parker’s Spenser … but Bolitar is more vulnerable and likable. Funnier too … A terrific job.”

—San Jose Mercury News

“Very entertaining … Coben grips your heart then jiggles your brain with a plot layered enough to make an onion give up and go home.”

—Rocky Mountain News (Denver)

“Coben pulls off this latest thriller with his usual aplomb, blending humor and suspense into a compelling read …. He pulls off a nifty surprise coda that ends the book on just the right note, one with the comforting ring of justice to it.”

—Houston Chronicle

“Fraught with emotion, action and plot,
Darkest Fear
demonstrates why Coben has won the Edgar, Anthony and Shamus awards.”

—Tulsa World

“Grabs you by the throat and refuses to let go …. Very, very good.”

—Washington Times

“Coben leads the reader on a twisted, suspenseful path that, like a roller coaster, begins gently and smoothly until you reach that first extreme curve that puts your heart in your mouth …. Sly humor, sophisticated plotting and solid storytelling meld well with bizarre yet totally believable characters …. Coben has written the archetypal Boomer novel folded into a first-class mystery.”

—Sun-Sentinel (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

“One of the most inventive plotters in the business … Myron runs rings around most of the tough-guy competition.”

—Kirkus Reviews

Books by Harlan Coben

D
EAL
B
REAKER

D
ROP
S
HOT

F
ADE
A
WAY

B
ACK
S
PIN

O
NE
F
ALSE
M
OVE

T
HE
F
INAL
D
ETAIL

D
ARKEST
F
EAR

T
ELL
N
O
O
NE

G
ONE
F
OR
G
OOD

When a father gives to his son, they both laugh.

When a son gives to his father, they both cry.

                                      —Yiddish proverb

This one is for your father. And mine.

“What is your darkest fear?” the voice whispers. Close your eyes now and picture it. Can you see it? Do you have it yet? The very worst agony you can imagine?”

After a long pause, I say, “Yes.”

“Good. Now imagine something worse, something far, far worse …”

—“The Mind of Terror” by Stan Gibbs,

column in the
New York Herald
,

January 16

Contents

Cover

Other Books By This Author

Title Page

Dedication

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Acknowledgments

About the Author

Copyright Page

1

A
n hour before his world exploded like a ripe tomato under a stiletto heel, Myron bit into a fresh pastry that tasted suspiciously like a urinal cake.

“Well?” Mom prompted.

Myron battled his throat, won a costly victory, swallowed. “Not bad.”

Mom shook her head, disappointed.

“What?”

“I’m a lawyer,” Mom said. “You’d think I’d have raised a better liar.”

“You did the best you could,” Myron said.

She shrugged and waved a hand at the, uh, pastry. “It’s my first time baking,
bubbe.
It’s okay to tell me the truth.”

“It’s like biting into a urinal cake,” Myron said.

“A what?”

“In men’s public bathrooms. In the urinals. They put them there for the smell or something.”

“And you eat them?”

“No—”

“Is that why your father takes so long in there? He’s having a little Tastykake? And here I thought his prostate was acting up.”

“I’m joking, Mom.”

She smiled through blue eyes tinged with a red that Visine could never hope to get out, the red you can only get through slow, steady tears. Normally Mom was heavily into histrionics. Slow, steady tears were not her style. “So am I, Mr. Smarty Pants. You think you’re the only one in this family with a sense of humor?”

Myron said nothing. He looked down at the, uh, pastry, fearing or perhaps hoping it might crawl away. In the thirty-plus years his mother had lived in this house, she had never baked—not from a recipe, not from scratch, not even from one of those Pillsbury morning croissant thingies that came in small mailing tubes. She could barely boil water without strict instructions and pretty much never cooked, though she could whip up a mean Celeste frozen pizza in the microwave, her agile fingers dancing across the numerical keypad in the vein of Nureyev at Lincoln Center. No, in the Bolitar household, the kitchen was more a gathering place—a Family Room Lite, if you will—than anything related to even the basest of the culinary arts. The round table held magazines and catalogs and congealing white boxes of Chinese takeout. The stovetop saw less action than a Merchant-Ivory production. The oven was a prop, strictly for show, like a politician’s Bible.

Something was definitely amiss.

They were sitting in the living room with the dated pseudo-leather white modular couch and aqua-tinged rug whose shagginess reminded Myron of a toilet-seat cover. Grown-up Greg Brady. Myron kept stealing glances out the picture window at the For Sale sign in the front yard as though it were a spaceship that had just landed and something sinister was about to step out.

“Where’s Dad?”

Mom gave a weary wave toward the door. “He’s in the basement.”

“In my room?”

“Your
old
room, yes. You moved out, remember?”

He did—at the tender age of thirty-four no less. Childcare experts would salivate and tsk-tsk over that one—the prodigal son choosing to remain in his split-level cocoon long after the deemed appropriate deadline for the butterfly to break free. But Myron might argue the opposite. He might bring up the fact that for generations and in most cultures, offspring lived in the familial home until a ripe old age, that adopting such a philosophy could indeed be a societal boom, helping people stay rooted to something tangible in this era of the disintegrating nuclear family. Or, if that rationale didn’t float your boat, Myron could try another. He had a million.

But the truth of the matter was far simpler: He liked hanging out in the burbs with Mom and Dad—even if confessing such a sentiment was about as hip as an Air Supply eight track.

“So what’s going on?” he asked.

“Your father doesn’t know you’re here yet,” she said. “He thinks you’re not coming for another hour.”

Myron nodded, puzzled. “What’s he doing in the basement?”

“He bought a computer. Your father plays with it down there.”

“Dad?”

“My point exactly. The man can’t change a lightbulb without a manual—all of a sudden he’s Bill Gates. Always on the nest.”

“The Net,” Myron corrected.

“The what?”

“It’s called the Net, Mom.”

“I thought it was nest. The bird’s nest or something.”

“No, it’s Net.”

“Are you sure? I know there’s a bird in there somewhere.”

“The Web maybe,” Myron tried. “Like with a spider.”

She snapped her fingers. “That’s it. Anyway your father is on there all the time, weaving the Web or whatever. He chats with people, Myron. That’s what he tells me. He chats with complete strangers. Like he used to do with the CB radio, remember?”

Myron remembered. Circa 1976. Jewish Dads in the suburbs checking for “smokeys” on the way to the delicatessen. Mighty convoy of Cadillac Sevilles. Ten-four, good buddy.

“And that’s not all,” she went on. “He’s typing his memoirs. A man who can’t scribble down a grocery list without consulting Strunk and White suddenly thinks he’s an ex-president.”

They were selling the house. Myron still could not believe it. His eyes wandered about the overly familiar surroundings, his gaze getting snagged on the photographs running up the stairwell. He saw his family mature via fashion—the skirts and sideburns lengthening and shortening, the quasi-hippie fringes and suede and tie-dyes, the leisure suits and bell-bottoms, the frilly tuxedos that would be too tacky for a Vegas casino—the years flying by frame by frame like one of those depressing life insurance commercials. He spotted the poses from his basketball days—a sixth-grade suburban-league foul shot, an eighth-grade drive to the hoop, a high school slam dunk—the row ending with
Sports Illustrated
cover shots, two from his days at Duke and one with his leg in a cast and a large-fonted
IS HE FINISHED?
emblazoned across his knee-cast image (the answer in the mind’s eye being an equally large-fonted
YES!).

BOOK: DARKEST FEAR
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