February 8, 2012

Review: Shelter

By Harlan Coben
Available now from Putnam (Penguin)
Review copy

Book Cover

Mickey Bolitar has traveled the world with his parents. His experiences ensured that he's more tough and capable than your average fifteen-year-old. Unfortunately, Mickey's dad died and his mother is in rehab, leaving him to move in with Myron, his estranged uncle. Myron, who lives near the mysterious Bat Lady. Of course, even trying to discover the Bat Lady's secrets can't hold Myron's attention when his girlfriend Ashley is missing.

I devoured SHELTER extremely quickly. It's an effectively paced thriller, moving from one scene to another without much pause. There were a few things I didn't enjoy, such as the belligerent and useless police chief. The police tend to get a bad rap in detective books and it leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But there were good points to balance it out. Coben uses technology well in SHELTER. He remembers that today's teens have cell phones and use them - and that they leave texts, not voicemails. It gave a realism to Mickey, Spoon, and Ema's interactions.

I liked the characters too. Mickey is nicely balanced by the friends he makes on his quest to rescue Ashley. Spoon is somewhat Daffy and Ema is both hilarious and brave. Even rich girl Rachel turns out to have depths.

I would recommend SHELTER wholeheartedly except for the ending. As the mysteries surrounding Ashley unravel, the plotting falls apart. There's a good organization in play. One that has apparently been operating for decades without learning how to do its job properly. If the people involved in the organization had thought for two seconds, Ashley would've been fine. As for the bad guy, tell me: do you find nonagenarians threatening?

If you like thrillers or enjoy Coben's adult books, I'd give SHELTER a whirl. Otherwise, I'd go ahead and pass it over. I might read the next book in the Mickey Bolitar series, but I hope it has a more satisfying mystery at its heart than SHELTER did.


  1. Great review and I totally agree! I recently reviewed this book too but had a hard time expressing exactly what was bothering me about it. I enjoy Coben's adult books so much more but I will probably try at least one more in this series.

  2. The Mickey Bolitar series: now one of my favorite book series.
    "Shelter" begins with Mickey Bolitar. This kid's got it bad. The father he loved is dead and buried. His mother is a druggie. His new girlfriend, Ashley, is missing without a trace. Starting a new year in a regular American high school is tough. He had no friends until he met Ashley. Then one day, she just disappears. While still trying to figure out the mystery, Mickey makes new friends; the rebel Ema and the random Spoon; both their own brand of comedy relief. With his new friends, Mickey tries to unravel the mystery of his girlfriend's disappearance. But could this case have something to do with the death of his father and the creepy old "Bat Lady?"
    This book is truly everything that has readers flipping pages: mystery, suspense, even comedy.


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