Harlan Coben’s Six Years

If you are looking for a riveting psychological thriller, Harlan Coben’s Six Years is the perfect choice. Master of the standalone thriller, Coben typically begins his novels with an impossible situation that immediately hooks the reader. Not a new writer (his first detective novel appeared in 1990), Coben is now at the top of his game. According to his website, “With over 50 million books in print worldwide, Harlan Coben’s last six consecutive novels, Six Years, Stay Close, Live Wire, Caught, Long Lost and Hold Tight all debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and lists around the world.”

The plot of Six Years is intriguing. After a whirlwind romance, Jake Fisher is shocked when his beloved Natalie announces that she is going to marry a former boyfriend. Six years pass and Jake, now a political science professor, learns that Natalie’s husband has died. Jake attends the funeral and is amazed to find that the widow is not Natalie. “What happens after Fisher attends the funeral,” observes Fletcher (2013), “finding another widow in place of Natalie, is mind-boggling” (p. 16). When Jake visits places that he and Natalie stayed at, people familiar with the couple do not remember either one. The reader starts to question whether Natalie even exists.

Nothing is what it seems in the novel, and the ground continually shifts under the reader’s feet. “The events that define you, the memories that constitute your life,” asks Taylor (2013), “what if they were all mired in confusion, built on a pivotal misunderstanding or, worse, a blatant lie?”

The Washington Post comments on the technical skill of the narrative:
What’s impressive here is how narrowly constructed the story actually is, with the plot repeatedly circling back on itself, moving ever homeward rather than further into unknown territory, and leaving nearly nothing — minor characters, seemingly incidental details, stray remarks — wasted. Sherlock Holmes famously chided Watson, “You see but you do not observe,” and the beauty of Coben’s craftsmanship here is how often he can lure us into not perceiving what’s clearly right in front of our eyes. (Taylor 2013)
Six Years is the second Coben novel to be made into a movie. As USA Today observes, the current movie has a hard act to follow, “The 2008 French movie based on 2006’s Tell No One (Ne le dis à personne) won four Cesars, the French equivalent of the Oscar.”

Winner of the Edgar Award, the Shamus Award, and the Anthony Award for his thrillers and detective novels, Coben has also written essays for publications such as the New York Times and Bloomberg Views.

It is easy to see why Six Years received starred reviews from both Library Journal and Booklist. As Library Journal’s Ayers points out, “The narrative is immersive, and the well-drawn characters and twisting plotting are stellar. With such a cool hook and a surprising and satisfying payoff, don’t wait six years to read what might be Coben’s best since Tell No One.”

Coben, Harlan. Six Years. New York: Dutton, 2013.

Fletcher, Connie. “Six Years.” Booklist 109, no. 13 (2013): 26.

Taylor, Art. “Six Years, A New Thriller by Harlan Coben; Jake Fisher Has a Chance to Reclaim the Love of His Life – But What if She Never Really Existed?” The Washington Post. March 25, 2013.