Book Review: Harlan Coben’s “Win”

A little disclaimer: Although I will avoid divulging any huge spoilers or integral twists to the plot (I won’t be going into any great detail), this review will undoubtedly include a brief summary of what the book was about and my thoughts on it. So, if you’re planning on reading this book, and want to avoid any clues to the storyline whatsoever, I’d skip this post…
Please go ahead and read a different post of mine though!

As much as I would protest such behaviour, when scouring the shelves for a new read, I admittedly scan the mosaic of covers for a gripping title, captivating tag lines, the mysterious deep hues of the typical thriller-crime genre I tend to gravitate towards, or the ring of a familiar author. In picking up “Win”, it was a combination of all of these. Having read Harlan Coben before – most recently “The Boy from the Woods”, which was brilliant too by the way – I already had an idea of what to expect: a twisting plot full of red herrings and cliff-hangers that leave you unable to put it down; the careful semantic deviation in the use of clever and incredibly detailed imagery; of course – a unique and multifaceted protagonist. Reading the book in just two sittings, I was not disappointed!

The Characters…

Right from the first chapter, the wealthy starring character, Win – or Windsor Lockwood – was intentionally complex, with outright questionable morals and a distasteful perspective, yet Coben had cleverly crafted an endearing character I grew oddly fond of. Throughout the book, my relationship with Win was complicated. There were times where I hated him, times where I cringed at his privilege and entitlement, times where I loathed his judgement, and equally, there were times where I admired him, respecting his blunt honesty, his witty idiolect, loyalty and sense of justice.

Typical of Coben, the other characters in the story were equally fascinating and distinctive, each with their own intricate back-stories and a unique role to play in the story; a role that only becomes clear as the densely wound plot begins to unravel and you come to discover each person’s relevance. Coben has a really special way of sewing lots of oats in different elements of the story that seem unrelated or benign, before drawing them all together and giving the reader those thrilling ‘ah ha!’ moments.

The Themes…

It’s impossible to avoid the jarring theme of wealth in this book: Win is both incredibly rich, and incredibly arrogant, seemingly as a result of his old-money privilege. Unsurprisingly, Coben has included many prosperous and powerful figures in this tale, most with more money than they know what to do with, and the narrative appears to shed a light on the ability of the wealthy to effortlessly evade the law and get away with anything. Although our apparent “protagonist”, Win is not only shamelessly aware of this injustice and inequality, but near-celebrates it, commenting frequently on his capacity to buy his way out of any trouble that may arise. As already mentioned, Win is not a cut-and-dry good-guy to root for, but by the end – despite any conflicting emotions towards his character – you do. Somehow, we all love the notoriety and fame of wealth.

Without revealing too much of the plot, other themes in the storyline include art heists, abduction, secrets, extremist activism, brutal murder – serial murder, even – and pride… historic, delicate pride that is protected at all costs.

Coben – as usual – is able to artfully weave the characters and complex themes together with admirable descriptive techniques, setting each scene with crisp skill. Every detail of the grand Lockwood Manor, extravagant helicopter trips across the city, private jets, and the general lifestyle of the rich was as thrilling as the next.

Would I recommend?

Of course I would! In fact, I already have, lending the book almost immediately after turning the final page to my Dad, who also read it in just a couple of days.

Knowing his taste for Jack Reacher-style characters, bold and cool with a mysterious background in law enforcement and a brilliant set of highly-trained skills, taking justice into their own hands, I was certain he would love Win. And he did. So if that’s also a style you love to read, I would recommend this book to you for sure! Equally, if you’re a fan of captivating thrillers with ever-unravelling plot-lines, twists and turns that have you holding the book just inches from your nose… this is also a good read to consider next.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The nice thing about reading Harlan Coben books is how subtly and tastefully the books give a little nod to another. The odd character will overlap, as does the idiolect in a way that makes you feel part of a little secret.
But I’m afraid I won’t start answering the phone by simply stating ‘articulate’… I’ll leave that to Win.

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