Caught

Caught

3.9 796
by Harlan Coben
     
 

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Reporter Wendy Tynes is making a name for herself, bringing down sexual offenders on nationally televised sting operations. But when social worker Dan Mercer walks into her trap, Wendy gets thrown into a story more complicated than she could ever imagine. Dan is tied to the disappearance of a seventeen-year-old New Jersey girl, and the shocking consequences will

Overview

Reporter Wendy Tynes is making a name for herself, bringing down sexual offenders on nationally televised sting operations. But when social worker Dan Mercer walks into her trap, Wendy gets thrown into a story more complicated than she could ever imagine. Dan is tied to the disappearance of a seventeen-year-old New Jersey girl, and the shocking consequences will have Wendy doubting her instincts about the motives of the people around her, while confronting the true nature of guilt, grief, and her own capacity for forgiveness.…

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bestseller Coben (Hold Tight) has a knack for taking everyday nightmares and playing with life’s endless “what ifs,” as shown in this stand-alone thriller, a tightly choreographed dance of guilt and innocence, forgiveness and retribution. Frank Tremont, a world-weary, near-retirement investigator for New Jersey’s Essex County, has to face his failure to solve his last case—the disappearance of a teenage girl. Meanwhile, Dan Mercer stands accused of being a sexual predator thanks to the ambush journalism of Wendy Tynes, a tabloid TV reporter, who must cope with her husband’s death caused by a drunken driver as well as reckon with the possibility of Mercer’s innocence. When Tynes finds a link between a father of one of Mercer’s alleged victims and others felled by scandal, she could become a killer’s next victim. If the wealth of characters dilutes the suspense, Coben gives readers lots to think about when judging rights and wrongs. 500,000 first printing; 12-city author tour. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Teenager Haley McWaid doesn't come home one night, and when months go by without a word her parents assume the worst. Reporter Wendy Tynes conducts a sexual predator sting, working with the local police to capture men on camera and later televising the footage. Her latest suspect is community social worker Dan Mercer, and those who know him can't believe he's guilty. Tynes begins to question her instincts, but she carries on with her investigation, which reveals a shocking link between Mercer and the missing Haley, with aftershocks that will destroy a community. VERDICT Coben is in top form exposing the dark underside of modern suburbia. The story will chill readers, especially parents of teenagers. Complex and intricate, this is his best book since Promise Me. Don't escape, get Caught. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/09.]—Jeff Ayers, Seattle P.L.
From the Publisher
"The thrill-a-minute action zooms on sharp, slippery twists and turns in a white-knuckle race from start to finish."
-Nora Roberts

"With Caught, Harlan Coben knocked another one out of the park!"
-New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jackson

"Caught is dark-hearted, quintessential Coben, and his character Wendy Tynes is completely driven to make things right. This novel is psychologically twisted, fascinating, and guaranteed to make you both look over your shoulder and sign up with the good guys."
-New York Times bestselling author Luanne Rice

"Quite simply, Harlan Coben is one of my favorite authors. His books have it all: nail-biting suspense, roller-coaster plots, relevant social issues, and pitch-perfect characters. Most important to me, his stories have a lot of heart. He writes about men-and women-you know, people who could be your neighbors, your friends, your family."
-New York Times bestselling author Kristin Hannah

"A Tilt-A-Whirl of a story....Buckle up and prepare for whiplash."
-Sandra Brown

“Quite simply, Harlan Coben is one of my favorite authors. His books have it all: nail-biting suspense, roller-coaster plots, relevant social issues, and pitch-perfect characters.”— New York Times Bestselling Author Kristin Hannah
 
“The thrill-a-minute action zooms on sharp, slippery twists and turns in a white-knuckle race from start to finish.”— #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Nora Roberts
 
“[A] tour de force of storytelling.”—The Washington Post

Caught is dark-hearted, quintessential Coben…guaranteed to make you both look over your shoulder and sign up with the good guys.”—New York Times Bestselling Author Luanne Rice

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780451232700
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/22/2011
Pages:
464
Sales rank:
112,015
Product dimensions:
4.20(w) x 7.40(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

 

Part One

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

 

Part Two

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

 

Epilogue

About the Author

Excerpt from Stay Close

Excerpt from Six Years

ALSO BY HARLAN COBEN

Deal Breaker
Drop Shot
Fade Away
Back Spin
One False Move
The Final Detail
Darkest Fear
Tell No One
Gone for Good
No Second Chance
Just One Look
The Innocent
Promise Me
The Woods
Hold Tight
Long Lost

DUTTON

Published by Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.); Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England; Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd); Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd); Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110 017, India; Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd); Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

 

Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

 

Published by Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

 

First printing, March 2010

 

Copyright © 2010 by Harlan Coben

All rights reserved

REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA

 

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA has been applied for.

 

ISBN: 9781101186053

 

 

PUBLISHER’S NOTE

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

 

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

For Anne
From the luckiest guy in the world

PROLOGUE

 

 

 

I KNEW opening that red door would destroy my life.

Yes, that sounds melodramatic and full of foreboding and I’m not big on either, and true, there was nothing menacing about the red door. In fact, the door was beyond ordinary, wood and fourpaneled, the kind of door you see standing guard in front of three out of every four suburban homes, with faded paint and a knocker at chest level no one ever used and a faux brass knob.

But as I walked toward it, a distant streetlight barely illuminating my way, the dark opening yawning like a mouth ready to gobble me whole, the feeling of doom was unshakable. Each step forward took great effort, as if I were walking not along a somewhat crackled walk but through still-wet cement. My body displayed all the classic symptoms of impending menace: Chill down my spine? Check. Hairs standing up on my arms? Yep. Prickle at the base of the neck? Present. Tingle in the scalp? Right there.

The house was dark, not a single light on. Chynna warned me that would be the case. The dwelling somehow seemed a little too cookie-cutter, a little too nondescript. That bothered me for some reason. This house was also isolated at the tippy end of the cul-de-sac, hunkering down in the darkness as though fending off intruders.

I didn’t like it.

I didn’t like anything about this, but this is what I do. When Chynna called I had just finished coaching the inner-city fourth-grade Newark Biddy Basketball team. My team, all kids who, like me, were products of foster care (we call ourselves the NoRents, which is short for No Parents—gallows humor), had managed to blow a six-point lead with two minutes left. On the court, as in life, the NoRents aren’t great under pressure.

Chynna called as I was gathering my young hoopsters for my postgame pep talk, which usually consisted of giving my charges some life-altering insight like “Good effort,” “We’ll get them next time,” or “Don’t forget we have a game next Thursday,” always ending with “Hands in” and then we yell, “Defense,” choosing to chant that word, I suppose, because we play none.

“Dan?”

“Who is this?”

“It’s Chynna. Please come.”

Her voice trembled, so I dismissed my team, jumped in my car, and now I was here. I hadn’t even had time to shower. The smell of gym sweat mixed now with the smell of fear sweat. I slowed my pace.

What was wrong with me?

I probably should have showered, for one thing. I’m not good without a shower. Never have been. But Chynna had been adamant. Now, she had begged. Before anyone got home. So here I was, my gray T-shirt darkened with perspiration and clinging to my chest, heading to that door.

Like most youngsters I work with, Chynna was seriously troubled, and maybe that was what was setting off the warning bells. I hadn’t liked her voice on the phone, hadn’t really warmed to this whole setup. Taking a deep breath, I glanced behind me. In the distance, I could see some signs of life on this suburban night—house lights, a flickering television or maybe computer monitor, an open garage door—but in this cul-de-sac, there was nothing, not a sound or movement, just a hush in the dark.

My cell phone vibrated, nearly making me jump out of my skin. I figured that it was Chynna, but no, it was Jenna, my ex-wife. I hit answer and said, “Hey.”

“Can I ask a favor?” she asked.

“I’m a little busy right now.”

“I just need someone to babysit tomorrow night. You can bring Shelly if you want.”

“Shelly and I are, uh, having trouble,” I said.

“Again? But she’s great for you.”

“I have trouble holding on to great women.”

“Don’t I know it.”

Jenna, my lovely ex, has been remarried for eight years. Her new husband is a well-respected surgeon named Noel Wheeler. Noel does volunteer work for me at the teen center. I like Noel and he likes me. He has a daughter by a previous marriage, and he and Jenna have a six-year-old girl named Kari. I’m Kari’s godfather, and both kids call me Uncle Dan. I’m the family go-to babysitter.

I know this all sounds very civilized and Pollyanna, and I suppose it is. In my case, it could be simply a matter of necessity. I have no one else—no parents, no siblings—ergo, the closest thing I have to family is my ex-wife. The kids I work with, the ones I advocate for and try to help and defend, are my life, and in the end I’m not sure I do the slightest bit of good.

Jenna said, “Earth to Dan?”

“I’ll be there,” I said to her.

“Six thirty. You’re the best.”

Jenna made a smooching noise into the mouthpiece and hung up. I looked at the phone for a moment, remembered our own wedding day. It was a mistake for me to get married. It is a mistake for me to get too close to people, and yet I can’t help it. Someone cue the violins so I can wax philosophical about how it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. I don’t think that applies to me. It is in humans’ DNA to repeat the same mistakes, even after we know better. So here I am, the poor orphan who scraped his way up to the top of his class at an elite Ivy League school but never really scraped off who he was. Corny, but I want someone in my life. Alas, that is not my destiny. I am a loner who isn’t meant to be alone.

“We are evolution’s garbage, Dan. . . .”

My favorite foster “dad” taught me that. He was a college professor who loved to get into philosophical debates.

“Think about it, Dan. Throughout mankind, the strongest and brightest did what? They fought in wars. That only stopped this past century. Before that, we sent our absolute best to fight on the front lines. So who stayed home and reproduced while our finest died on distant battlefields? The lame, the sick, the weak, the crooked, the cowardly—in short, the least of us. That’s what we are the genetic by-product of, Dan—millenniums of weeding out the premium and keeping the flotsam. That’s why we are all garbage—the dung from centuries of bad breeding.”

I forwent the knocker and rapped on the door lightly with my knuckles. The door creaked open a crack. I hadn’t realized that it was ajar.

I didn’t like that either. A lot I didn’t like here.

As a kid, I watched a lot of horror movies, which was strange because I hated them. I hated things jumping out at me. And I really couldn’t stand movie gore. But I would still watch them and revel in the predictably moronic behavior of the heroines, and right now those scenes were replaying in my head, the ones where said moronic heroine knocks on a door and it opens a little and you scream, “Run, you scantily clad bimbo!” and she wouldn’t and you couldn’t understand it and two minutes later, the killer would be scooping out her skull and munching on her brain.

I should go right now.

In fact, I will. But then I flashed back to Chynna’s call, to the words she’d said, the trembling in her voice. I sighed, leaned my face toward the opening, peered into the foyer.

Darkness.

Enough with the cloak and dagger.

“Chynna?”

My voice echoed. I expected silence. That would be the next step, right? No reply. I slipped the door open a little, took a tentative step forward. . . .

“Dan? I’m in the back. Come in.”

The voice was muffled, distant. Again I didn’t like this, but there was no way I was backing out now. Backing out had cost me too much throughout my life. My hesitation was gone. I knew what had to be done now.

I opened the door, stepped inside, and closed the door behind me.

Others in my position would have brought a gun or some kind of weapon. I had thought about it. But that just doesn’t work for me. No time to worry about that now. No one was home. Chynna had told me that. And if they were, well, I would handle that when the moment came.

“Chynna?”

“Go to the den, I’ll be there in a second.”

The voice sounded . . . off. I saw a light at the end of the hall and moved toward it. There was a noise now. I stopped and listened. Sounded like water running. A shower maybe.

“Chynna?”

“Just changing. Out in a second.”

I moved into the low-lit den. I saw one of those dimmer-switch knobs and debated turning it up, but in the end I chose to leave it alone. My eyes adjusted pretty quickly. The room had cheesy wood paneling that looked as if it were made from something far closer to vinyl than anything in the timber family. There were two portraits of sad clowns with huge flowers on their lapels, the kind of painting you might pick up at a particularly tacky motel’s garage sale. There was a giant open bottle of no-name vodka on the bar.

I thought I heard somebody whisper.

“Chynna?” I called out.

No answer. I stood, listened for more whispering. Nothing.

I started toward the back, toward where I heard the shower running.

“I’ll be right out,” I heard the voice say. I pulled up, felt a chill. Because now I was closer to the voice. I could hear it better. And here was the thing I found particularly strange about it:

It didn’t sound at all like Chynna.

Three things tugged at me. One, panic. This wasn’t Chynna. Get out of the house. Two, curiosity. If it wasn’t Chynna, who the hell was it and what was going on? Three, panic again. It had been Chynna on the phone—so what had happened to her?

I couldn’t just run out now.

I took one step toward where I’d come in, and that was when it all happened. A spotlight snapped on in my face, blinding me. I stumbled back, hand coming up to my face.

“Dan Mercer?”

I blinked. Female voice. Professional. Deep tone. Sounded oddly familiar.

“Who’s there?”

Suddenly there were other people in the room. A man with a camera. Another with what looked like a boom mike. And the female with the familiar voice, a stunning woman with chestnut brown hair and a business suit.

“Wendy Tynes, NTC News. Why are you here, Dan?”

I opened my mouth, nothing came out. I recognized the woman from that TV newsmagazine . . .

“Why have you been conversing online in a sexual manner with a thirteen-year-old girl, Dan? We have your communications with her.”

. . . the one that sets up and catches pedophiles on camera for all the world to see.

“Are you here to have sex with a thirteen-year-old girl?”

The truth of what was going on there hit me, freezing my bones. Other people flooded the room. Producers maybe. Another cameraman. Two cops. The cameras came in closer. The lights got brighter. Beads of sweat popped up on my brow. I started to stammer, started to deny.

But it was over.

Two days later, the show aired. The world saw.

And the life of Dan Mercer, just as I somehow knew it would be when I approached that door, was destroyed.

 

 

 

 

WHEN MARCIA MCWAID FIRST SAW HER daughter’s empty bed, panic did not set in. That would come later.

She had woken up at six AM, early for Saturday morning, feeling pretty terrific. Ted, her husband of twenty years, slept in the bed next to her. He lay on his stomach, his arm around her waist. Ted liked to sleep with a shirt on and no pants. None. Nude from the waist down. “Gives my man down there room to roam,” he would say with a smirk. And Marcia, imitating her daughters’ teenage singsong tone, would say, “T-M-I”—Too Much Information.

Marcia slipped out of his grip and padded down to the kitchen. She made herself a cup of coffee with the new Keurig pod machine. Ted loved gadgets—boys and their toys—but this one actually got some use. You take the pod, you stick it in the machine—presto, coffee. No video screens, no touch pad, no wireless connectivity. Marcia loved it.

They’d recently finished an addition on the house—one extra bedroom, one bathroom, the kitchen knocked out a bit with a glassed-in nook. The kitchen nook offered oodles of morning sun and had thus become Marcia’s favorite spot in the house. She took her coffee and the newspaper and set herself on the window seat, folding her feet beneath her.

A small slice of heaven.

She let herself read the paper and sip her coffee. In a few minutes she would have to check the schedule. Ryan, her third grader, had the early Hoops Basketball game at eight AM. Ted coached. His team was winless for the second straight season.

“Why do your teams never win?” Marcia had asked him.

“I draft the kids based on two criteria.”

“That being?”

“How nice the father—and how hot the mom.”

She had slapped at him playfully, and maybe Marcia would have been somewhat concerned if she hadn’t seen the moms on the sideline and knew, for certain, that he had to be joking. Ted was actually a great coach, not in terms of strategy but in terms of handling the boys. They all loved him and his lack of competitiveness so that even the untalented players, the ones who were usually discouraged and quit during the season, showed up every week. Ted even took the Bon Jovi song and turned it around: “You give losing a good name.” The kids would laugh and cheer every basket, and when you’re in third grade that’s how it should be.

Marcia’s fourteen-year-old daughter, Patricia, had rehearsal for the freshman play, an abridged version of the musical Les Misérables . She had several small parts, but that didn’t seem to affect the workload. And her oldest child, Haley, the high school senior, was running a “captain’s practice” for the girls’ lacrosse team. Captain’s practices were unofficial, a way to sneak in early practices under the guidelines issued by high school sports. In short, no coaches, nothing official, just a casual gathering, a glorified pickup game if you will, run by the captains.

Like most suburban parents, Marcia had a love-hate relationship with sports. She knew the relative long-term irrelevancy and yet still managed to get caught up in it.

A half hour of peace to start the day. That was all she needed.

She finished the first cup, pod-made herself a second, picked up the “Styles” section of the paper. The house remained silent. She padded upstairs and looked over her charges. Ryan slept on his side, his face conveniently facing the door so that his mother could notice the echo of his father.

Patricia’s room was next. She too was still sleeping.

“Honey?”

Patricia stirred, might have made a noise. Her room, like Ryan’s, looked as if someone had strategically placed sticks of dynamite in the drawers, blowing them open; some clothes sprawled dead on the floor, others lay wounded midway, clinging to the armoire like the fallen on a barricade before the French Revolution.

“Patricia? You have rehearsal in an hour.”

“I’m up,” she groaned in a voice that indicated she was anything but. Marcia moved to the next room, Haley’s, and took a quick peek.

The bed was empty.

It was also made, but that was no surprise. Unlike her siblings’ abodes, this one was neat, clean, anally organized. It could be a showroom in a furniture store. There were no clothes on this floor, every drawer fully closed. The trophies—and there were many—were perfectly aligned on four shelves. Ted had put in the fourth shelf just recently, after Haley’s team had won the holiday tournament in Franklin Lakes. Haley had painstakingly divided up the trophies among the four shelves, not wanting the new one to have only one. Marcia was not sure why exactly. Part of it was because Haley didn’t want it to look like she was just waiting for more to come, but more of it was her general abhorrence of disorganization. She kept each trophy equidistant from the others, moving them closer together as more came in, three inches separating them, then two, then one. Haley was about balance. She was the good girl, and while that was a wonderful thing—a girl who was ambitious, did her homework without being asked, never wanted others to think badly of her, was ridiculously competitive—there was a tightly wound aspect, a quasi-OCD quality, that worried Marcia.

Marcia wondered what time Haley had gotten home. Haley didn’t have a curfew anymore because there had simply never been a need. She was responsible and a senior and never took advantage. Marcia had been tired and gone up to sleep at ten. Ted, in his constant state of “randy,” soon followed her.

Marcia was about to move on, let it go, when something, she couldn’t say what, made her decide to throw in a load of laundry. She started toward Haley’s bathroom. The younger siblings, Ryan and Patricia, believed that “hamper” was a euphemism for “floor” or really “anyplace but the hamper,” but Haley, of course, dutifully, religiously, and nightly put the clothes she’d worn that day into the hamper. And that was when Marcia started to feel a small rock form in her chest.

There were no clothes in the hamper.

The rock in her chest grew when Marcia checked Haley’s toothbrush, then the sink and shower.

All bone-dry.

The rock grew when she called out to Ted, trying to keep the panic out of her voice. It grew when they drove to captain’s practice and found out that Haley had never showed. It grew when she called Haley’s friends while Ted sent out an e-mail blast—and no one knew where Haley was. It grew when they called the local police, who, despite Marcia’s and Ted’s protestations, believed that Haley was a runaway, a kid blowing off some steam. It grew when, forty-eight hours later, the FBI was brought in. It grew when there was still no sign of Haley after a week.

It was as if the earth had swallowed her whole.

A month passed. Nothing. Then two. Still no word. And then finally, during the third month, word came—and the rock that had grown in Marcia’s chest, the one that wouldn’t let her breathe and kept her up nights, stopped growing.

PART ONE

CHAPTER 1

 

 

 

THREE MONTHS LATER

 

“DO YOU PROMISE to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”

Wendy Tynes said that she did, took the stand, looked out. She felt as though she were onstage, something she was somewhat used to, what with being a television news reporter and all, but this time it made her squirm. She looked out and saw the parents of Dan Mercer’s victims. Four sets of them. They were there every day. At first they’d brought photographs of their children, the innocent ones of course, holding them up, but the judge had made them stop. Now they sat silently, watching, and somehow that was even more intimidating.

The seat was uncomfortable. Wendy adjusted her position, crossed then uncrossed her legs, and waited.

Flair Hickory, celebrity counsel for the defense, stood, and not for the first time, Wendy wondered how Dan Mercer had the money to afford him. Flair wore his customary gray suit with thick pink stripes, pink shirt, pink tie. He crossed the room in a way that might be modestly described as “theatrical,” but it was more like something Liberace might have done if Liberace had the courage to be really flamboyant.

“Ms. Tynes,” he began with a welcoming smile. This was part of Flair’s style. He was gay, yes, but he played it up in court like Harvey Fierstein in leather chaps doing Liza jazz hands. “My name is Flair Hickory. Good morning to you.”

“Good morning,” she said.

“You work for a lurid tabloid TV program called Caught in the Act, is that correct?”

The prosecuting attorney, a man named Lee Portnoi, said, “Objection. It’s a TV program. There has been no testimony to support the allegation that the program is either lurid or tabloid.”

Flair smiled. “Would you like me to present evidence, Mr. Portnoi?”

“That won’t be necessary,” Judge Lori Howard said in a voice that already sounded weary. She turned to Wendy. “Please answer the question.”

“I don’t work for the show anymore,” Wendy said.

Flair pretended to be surprised by this. “No? But you did?”

“Yes.”

“So what happened?”

“The show was taken off the air.”

“For low ratings?”

“No.”

“Really? Why then?”

Portnoi said, “Your Honor, we all know the whys.”

Lori Howard nodded. “Move along, Mr. Hickory.”

“You know my client, Dan Mercer?”

“Yes.”

“And you broke into his house, didn’t you?”

Wendy tried to hold his gaze, tried not to look guilty, whatever the heck that meant. “That’s not really accurate, no.”

“It’s not? Well, my dear, I want to make sure that we are as accurate as humanly possible, so let’s back up, shall we?” He strolled across the courtroom as though it were a catwalk in Milan. He even had the audacity to smile at the families of the victims. Most made a point of not looking at Flair, but one of the fathers, Ed Grayson, stared daggers. Flair seemed unfazed.

“How did you first encounter my client?”

“He came on to me in a chat room.”

Flair’s eyebrows went skyward. “Really?” Like it was the most fascinating thing anyone had ever said. “What sort of chat room?”

“A chat room frequented by children.”

“And you were in this chat room?”

“Yes.”

“You’re not a child, Ms. Tynes. I mean, you may not be to my taste, but even I can see that you are a rather luscious female adult.”

“Objection!”

Judge Howard sighed. “Mr. Hickory?”

Flair smiled, waved his apology. This was the kind of thing only Flair could get away with. “Now, Ms. Tynes, when you were in this chat room, you were pretending to be an underage girl, isn’t that correct?”

“Yes.”

“You then engaged in conversations designed to entice men into wanting sex with you, isn’t that also correct?”

“No.”

“How’s that?”

“I always let them make the first move.”

Flair shook his head and made a tsk-tsk noise. “If I had a dollar for every time I said that . . .”

A smattering of laughter rippled through the courtroom.

The judge said, “We have the transcripts, Mr. Hickory. We can read them and decide for ourselves.”

“Excellent point, Your Honor, thank you.”

Wendy wondered why Dan Mercer wasn’t here, but that was probably obvious. This was an evidentiary hearing, ergo, there was no requirement to attend. Flair Hickory was hoping to persuade the judge to throw out the horrible, sickening, stomach-turning material the police had found on Mercer’s computer and hidden throughout his house. If he could pull this off—everyone agreed it was a long shot—the case against Dan Mercer would probably vanish and a sick predator would be out on the streets.

“By the way”—Flair spun back toward Wendy—“how did you know it was my client on the other end of these online conversations?”

“I didn’t at first.”

“Oh? With whom did you think you were conversing?”

“I didn’t have a name. That’s part of it. I just knew at that stage that it was some guy who was trolling for sex with underage girls.”

“How did you know that?”

“Excuse me?”

Flair made quote marks with his fingers. “ ‘ Trolling for sex with underage girls,’ as you put it. How did you know that was what the person on the other end of the conversation was doing?”

“Like the judge said, Mr. Hickory. Read the transcripts.”

“Oh, I have. And do you know what I concluded?”

That got Lee Portnoi up. “Objection. We don’t care what Mr. Hickory concluded. He isn’t giving testimony here.”

“Sustained.”

Flair moved back to his desk and started checking through notes. Wendy looked over at the gallery. It helped her resolve. Those people out there had suffered greatly. Wendy was helping them find justice. Much as you could pretend to be jaded or claim that it was just her job, it meant a great deal to her—the good she had done. But when she met Ed Grayson’s eyes, she saw something there that she didn’t like. Something angry in his stare. Challenging maybe.

Flair put the papers down. “Well, let me put it to you this way, Ms. Tynes: If a reasonable person were to read those transcripts, would they definitely, without a doubt, conclude that one of the participants was a luscious, thirty-six-year-old, female news reporter—”

“Objection!”

“—or might they conclude that it had been written by a thirteen-year-old girl?”

Wendy opened her mouth, closed it, waited. Judge Howard said, “You can answer.”

“I was pretending to be a thirteen-year-old girl.”

“Ah,” Flair said, “who hasn’t?”

“Mr. Hickory,” the judge warned.

“Sorry, Your Honor, couldn’t resist. Well, Ms. Tynes, if I were just reading those messages, I wouldn’t know that you were pretending, would I? I would think you were indeed a thirteen-year-old girl.”

Lee Portnoi threw up his hands. “Is there a question in there?”

“Here it comes, sweetie, so listen up: Were those messages written by a thirteen-year-old girl?”

“Asked and answered, Your Honor.”

Flair said, “It’s a simple yes or no. Was the author of those messages a thirteen-year-old girl?”

Judge Howard nodded that she could answer.

“No,” Wendy said.

“In fact, as you said, you were pretending to be a thirteen-year-old girl, correct?”

“Correct.”

“And for all you know, the person on the other end was pretending to be an adult male seeking underage sex. For all you knew, you were talking to an albino nun with herpes, correct?”

“Objection.”

Wendy met Flair’s eyes. “An albino nun with herpes didn’t show up looking for sex at the child’s house.”

But Flair would have none of it. “What house would that be, Ms. Tynes? The house where you set up your cameras? Tell me, did an underage girl live there?”

Wendy said nothing.

“Please answer the question,” the judge said.

“No.”

“But you were there, correct? Perhaps whoever was on the other side of your online communications—and we really don’t know who that was at this point—but perhaps that person had seen your news”—Flair said it as though the word “news” itself tasted bad in his mouth—“program and decided to play along so he could meet a luscious thirty-six-year-old TV star. Isn’t that possible?”

Portnoi was up. “Objection, Your Honor. These are matters for the jury.”

“True enough,” Flair said. “We can argue the obvious case of false entrapment there.” He turned back to Wendy. “Let’s stay on the night of January seventeenth, shall we? What happened after you confronted my client at your sting house?”

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"The thrill-a-minute action zooms on sharp, slippery twists and turns in a white-knuckle race from start to finish."
-Nora Roberts

"With Caught, Harlan Coben knocked another one out of the park!"
-New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jackson

"Caught is dark-hearted, quintessential Coben, and his character Wendy Tynes is completely driven to make things right. This novel is psychologically twisted, fascinating, and guaranteed to make you both look over your shoulder and sign up with the good guys."
-New York Times bestselling author Luanne Rice

"Quite simply, Harlan Coben is one of my favorite authors. His books have it all: nail-biting suspense, roller-coaster plots, relevant social issues, and pitch-perfect characters. Most important to me, his stories have a lot of heart. He writes about men-and women-you know, people who could be your neighbors, your friends, your family."
-New York Times bestselling author Kristin Hannah

"A Tilt-A-Whirl of a story....Buckle up and prepare for whiplash."
-Sandra Brown

Meet the Author

Harlan Coben is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of twenty-two previous novels, including the popular Myron Bolitar series. His most recent bestseller, Stay Close, will be published in paperback in February 2013, and Six Years, his twenty-third novel, will be published in March 2013. The winner of the Edgar, Shamus, and Anthony awards, he lives in New Jersey.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Ridgewood, New Jersey
Date of Birth:
January 4, 1962
Place of Birth:
Newark, New Jersey
Education:
B.A. in political science, Amherst College, 1984
Website:
http://www.harlancoben.com

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Caught 3.9 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 796 reviews.
Dollycas More than 1 year ago
WOW!! What A Story!! I don't want to tell you too much because I don't want to spoil any of the suspense the builds throughout this book but here are the basics: This is the story of high school senior, Haley McWaid, the pride of her family, good grades, never gets in trouble, a little obsessive compulsive who doesn't come home one night and goes missing. It is also the story of Dan Mercer, a social worker, who works with troubled teens, who may be a sexual predator, as he is "CAUGHT" by a television show, hosted by Wendy Tynes who is on a mission to expose internet predators. It also delves into the lives of Dan's old college roommates and how they may have complicated Dan's life. The whole thing leaves Wendy worrying about who she can trust. This story takes more twists and turns than an old country road and you better be belted in. It is a story filled with tension, stress, pressure, that challenges the reader. It is a thrilling, gripping, spine tingling novel that deals with things that could only be seen on television setting up shop in this community. Harlan Coben takes all these plots and ties them together in what I believe will be the best book I read this year. You will be "CAUGHT" from the first page and you will not be RELEASED even after the last word. If you have not Pre-ordered this book, you should do it NOW. This is definitely not a book to me missed. http://dollycas.blogspot.com/
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thanks to harriet klausner and all the other plot spoiling posts, here is another book ruined. Why cant u ppl learn to write a review and not a book report, cliff notes and dissertations. Most ppl like to read a book and be surprised. When u tell every detail u ruin ior others. These ppl should be banned from posting their plot reveals.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read most of his books, and i was quite excited when i saw that he came out with a new one. I went right to the store and bought it. It is an easy read, but over-all a complete let down. The whole time i was reading it, it seemed like it wasnt even him that wrote it. It was like the publishers were like you need a new book, so write one. Well no good. It will never be a timeless classic due to its use of the way too modernized use of "facebook" and "twitter" when i read those in there it ruined it for me. Honestly the end was good, but as a whole i give this book a thumbs down. And to everyone that has only read this book by Coben, try not to let it ruin his other books because honestly he has some pretty amazing other books. Really try reading Gone for Good, or Tell No one. These two books are absolutely amazing.
bubrock More than 1 year ago
I was OK with it up until about mid-way through. Then the number of inplausible events started to multiply into the silly. There are many twists and turns throughout the second half of the book, one more unbelievable (in not a good way...) than the next. In the end, I was very annoyed that I stuck it out through the entire book. Not worth the money...and certainly not worth the time!
JGrundig More than 1 year ago
The strength of a Coben thriller is how he mixes the thriller into the everyday and looks at themes from modern life. Typically his stories takes the common man or woman and puts them in a extraordinary situation. When I started this book and saw that it was going to deal with pedophiles I was a little worried at where Coben was going to take me. I do not care to read any detailed descriptions on that subject. No worries though, the story looks at the subject from the standpoint of false accusations, fear and the power of being found guilty in the court of public opinion. Imagine a crime so heinous that your reputation is destroyed whether you are found guilty of the crime or not. In the story you meet Wendy Tynes a Junior reporter who is covering a sting set up to catch pedophiles. This is similar to The Catch a Predator shows on NBC where men are lured to a house thinking they are meeting an under aged girl. But what happens when you catch the wrong guy in your trap? Wendy finds out this maybe the case, but then things begin to spiral out of control and the story whips you around to place you did not see coming! Typical Coben! A wild ride down a mountain road with more twists and turns and finally reaching a "I did not see it coming conclusion!"
tension72 More than 1 year ago
There is no question Harlan Coben is a master at gripping the reader immediately after the first page. Coben takes us on a roller coaster ride of an adventure, where the story twists and turns and things definitely aren't what they seem. Unfortunately, three quarters of the way through this book, the story falls apart and although the ending is interesting, the reader is left unsatisfied. The idea of forgiveness and how willing you'd be to forgive is questioned and it is one that gives pause. In the end, I can't wait for his next book.
oma217 More than 1 year ago
I am a great fan of Harlan Coban. I have read all his books and usually clamour for more. I was eager to start reading his new book, Caught, and was certain that I would stay awake till all hours in order to finish it. Oh, but what a bitter disappointment I encountered. This book is boring, boring, and more boring. The plot is poorly created, the characters lack in luster. Coban has tried to create a modern day social problem, that of child molestation in the suburbs, and has infused it with corny dialogue and poor literary style. The only saving grace of this immaturely written novel, is that the reader gets a glimpse of Win, a character we have seen in Coban's more exciting former books. Unfortunately, this glimpse is only that, a glimpse. I have snoozed my way through this book, and instead of staying awake to read it, I have used it as a sleep aid. It is boring to the core. I kept reading, hoping that the book would turn out to be as good, if not better, than the other books I have read by this author. I was bitterly disappointed. If you are a Coban fan, do not read this book. You may never read another one written by Coban again. If you are a newbie to Coban, do not read this book, as you will be turned off to the man who has written so many entertaining and delightful books in the past. Bottom line, save your time and put it into better reading. I recommend that you skip this book completely.
MikeS More than 1 year ago
I anxiously await a new Coben novel. I pounced on Caught and read it over a weekend. It had some of the hallmarks I have come to expect from Mr. Coben, fast pace, a plot with twists and turns, good writing. In this work the writing style was great, the book had a fast pace, there were plenty of plot twists, but the story had too many underlying themes and the mechanics of getting to the ending was unrealistic. Revenge, forgiveness, loyalty, lack of honor, duty, on and on and on, each chapter seemed to promote a new theme. And the plot device which moved you through sordid details, long held secrets and intimate events was by using characters who exercised no restraint to withhold anything. "I won't tell you." "Please tell me" "Okay". An exaggeration but not too far off. I was reminded of a film noir detective film where the villain at the end, before he is going to shoot the good guy, tells him how he committed the crime. And the poetic license used when the criminal system was involved was way off base. A character is arrested, then released because his lawyer says they are wrong. Unbelievable. No bond setting, no preliminary hearing, just allowing some evil breathed barrister to tell them what they should do. What planet do the characters live on? So, while I read the book quickly, and tried to follow the plot amongst all the disparate themes, this was not a book I ended with a feeling that I had been on a great trip. More like an excursion to an amusement park with diverse rides, none of which provided the thrill which would keep me coming back. Mr. Coben can do better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First book I have read from this author and it will not be my last. Thriller with lots of twist and turns to keep you turning the pages. No sex, cuss word here and there, over all a very good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A mystery book that will make you want to keep reading. This was a really interesting and emotion-packed book. I loved it. Coben shows that holding a grudge is not that best way to go. Also that you can't really judge someone without knowing them fully. Be careful with what you say to other people.
windergalJB More than 1 year ago
This was the first book I have ever read by this author and I guess it will be my last. The synopsis of the book seemed very promising and I know that Harlan Coben is a best selling author so I figured it would be very interesting. However, I did not find the book interesting at all. Mr. Coben's writing style is all over the place, jumping from one scene to the next without any convincing cohesion. I found that I never cared enough about his characters to want to turn the page and find out what was their next move. I did notice that several Coben fans have written reviews that this was not one of the authors best books. However, from the lack of character development and leap-frog plot development, I doubt that I would like this authors best book, either.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Harlan Coben is one of my favorite authors and I always enjoy reading his books. I was not sure I was going to like Caught as much as his previous books when I first started reading, but (in my opinion) it turned out to be one of Coben's best books yet! I am an avid mystery reader and could not put this book down. Just when I thought I knew where things were going, Coben would throw a curve - but it worked well! Caught was definitely suspenseful, but the message(s) in the book are also important. I look forward to Coben's next book - hopefully it will be just as good!
Sherri_Hunter More than 1 year ago
A very fascinating riveting story that drew me in immediately. Several plots are occurring simultaneously in this book that appear to be separate and individual but begin to connect together. A missing teenager who vanishes in the middle of the night without a trace and leaves the entire community baffled. A social worker’s arrest as a sexual predator of children opens up more questions than answers. I was prepared to dislike Wendy Tynes initially. She struck me as a Nancy Grace type of journalist looking for explosive headlines and bright lights and assuming her target was guilty without due process. The story weaves in and around the characters of this story to make the reader unsure of their own convictions. Several times while reading this book I was positive that Dan Mercer was a pedophile and had killed the missing girl, but a few pages later, I began to doubt and then start the process over again. This book really made me think about the criminal justice system in this country, when it works and works well, and also when it doesn’t. This book is also about rash decisions and how they can alter lives forever. Decisions made by Haley, Dan, Wendy and others lead to actions by others that cause a tsunami effect of destruction in their wake. This book showed me that nothing is ever as it seems on the surface but all too often, people go with that perception and make judgments based on it. Harlan Coben is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors to turn to when I want a story that packs a solid punch but still manages to surprise the reader. This story brought out a range of emotions in me while reading. Everything from anger and shock to fear and sorrow combined with some tears and laughter will give the reader a thoroughly entertaining, though exhausting experience. If you enjoy James Patterson, I highly recommend you try Harlan Coben. He is definitely a master of his craft. Find a comfortable chair, kick off your shoes and settle in for a thrilling adventure when you open this book. You won’t want to put it down.
Mikki_Reyna More than 1 year ago
I think this is one of the best books I've ever read.  From first page to last you're taken on a quest trying to figure out what is the truth.   Dan Mercer is a pedophile and collector of child pornography.  Then he's not; then he is.  What is the truth?  Corben keeps you hanging until the very end where everything is satisfactorily revealed and all the loose ends neatly tied off.   I highly recommend this book.
NonniD More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! I hate to use cliches, but it was a real page-turner! Not once when I put it down did I want to and each time I did, I couldn't wait to get back to it. There was a lot to figure out and I ended up being surprised by most of it. I will definitely read another Harlan Coben book again soon!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lovet it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read many of his books and never read one I didnt like, but this one is exceptional. Lots of twists and very thought provoking while keeping you guessing. I didnt predict any of it!
NoraJean More than 1 year ago
..but I promise you really don't. Some neat plot twists take you in directions Coben foreshadowed, so don't blame him if you guess wrong! It was fun to see Facebook and Twitter used in the story, but I'm afraid some of the references are too "now" to make sense to a reader even a few years down the road (a recent commercial is references, for example) Of course, Facebook may well be passe by Christmas, so who knows. Love the balance of the first and last chapter! (no peeking, gentle reader)
ginnyc702 More than 1 year ago
A fun read, although the plot is even more convoluted than usual for Coben. I love the way he incorporates characters from the beloved Myron Bolitar series in all his books, but I must say I missed Myron less in this one. I hated the main character at first but gradually grew to like her; I wouldn't mind seeing her again. The subject matter is topical: how our thinking is shaped by an ever-present media. And although this idea got kind of bogged down by the plot resolution, I found myself thinking and talking about it for some time after finishing the book.
martingg More than 1 year ago
I've been a big fan of his....but I actually put the book down 3/4 of the way through and didn't pick it up again for weeks,....something I never do......
dhaupt More than 1 year ago
During an investigation for her expose TV show reporter Wendy Tynes has uncovered yet another child predator. This man Dan Mercer has ties in the local community where three months prior a teenaged girl went missing without a trace. As the hammer begins to fall and justice served things start happening that make her question the case and the perpetrator up to this point. There's something rotten in New Jersey the roots of which are far and wide, but to get to the truth Wendy must soul search to find the answers, is she willing to get there no matter the cost, especially when the cost is personal. Harlan Coben is a masterful storyteller as proven by this spine tingling can't stop page turning thriller. He brings us a tale of a parent's worst nightmare right from the front pages of newspapers all over the world, and then he ups the ante by taking his readers on a roller coaster adventure ride where the dips and turns are as dangerous as they are entertaining, where he has you constantly wondering "Who-Done-IT". He uses dialogue that informs us and entrances us, that scares us and gives us hope. His star character Wendy is a complicated and complex woman, one you'll spend time deciding whether she's friend or foe, but believe me it'll be time well spent. His supporting characters, all memorable are so intricately important to the story that you'll find yourself intimates with each one, some you'll cheer and some you'll curse but all you'll never forget. Be prepared to be wowed as you get enmeshed in a web that just keeps getting bigger the farther you read, be prepared to be entertained with nail biting tension and edge of your seat excitement, be prepared to be wowed when you reach the pinnacle. But most of all be prepared to spread the word of this must read and Number 1 on the New York Times Best Seller list. This book will make you think, make you cringe, and make you mad, but above all this book will make you glad you read it.
Maximillian More than 1 year ago
There are several storylines with many twists and turns in Coben's latest offering. This is good, but not one of the best by this author. I do like the way he brings up current issues, such as the role parents play in the formation of their children's values. The idea of forgiveness of course is a Christian one, even though Coben downplays the spiritual and belief in an afterlife.
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