2020 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge · 2020 Reviews · contemporary fiction · crime · thriller

POPSUGAR READING CHALLENGE 2020: The Boy from the Woods by Harlan Coben

pop sugar 2020 17May

Today I am marking off my eighteenth #18 checkpoint category for the POPSUGAR READING CHALLENGE 2020 with:

a book that is published in 2020

Thirty years ago, a child was found in the New Jersey backwoods.the boy from the woods small

He had been living a feral existence, with no memory of how he got there or even who he is. Everyone just calls him Wilde.

Now a former soldier and security expert, he lives off the grid, shunned by the community – until they need him.

A child has gone missing. With her family suspecting she’s just playing a disappearing game, nobody seems concerned except for criminal attorney Hester Crimstein. She contacts Wilde, asking him to use his unique skills to find the girl.

But even he can find no trace of her. One day passes, then a second, then a third.

On the fourth, a human finger shows up in the mail.

And now Wilde knows this is no game. It’s a race against time to save the girl’s life – and expose the town’s dark trove of secrets…


The simple experience of completing a hike in the mountains got Harlan Coben’s creative writing juices flowing and The Boy from the Woods began to take shape. For his latest novel Coben considered the scenario of a six year old boy emerging from the woods, claiming that he had been living there his whole life, with no parents or home to return to. This situation formed the very basis of the latest contemporary thriller from the bestselling author of The Stranger.

A story of lies, truth, deception and danger, The Boy From the Woods opens with the intriguing story of Wilde, who was discovered in the woods of New Jersey some thirty years ago. When this young boy emerged from the woods he was unable to explain why he was living in the woods and where his family might be located. Decades after surfacing from the woods, Wilde has forged a career a soldier, but he has now retired from service. Wilde continues to seek solace from the woods and he also prefers to lead a solitary existence. When the case of a missing young girl arises, Wilde is asked to help out, using some of his background expertise to help find the girl. But in doing so, Wilde is forced to confront unwelcoming memories from his past. Feelings of disconnection, estrangement, difference and scorn follow Wilde as he casts his mind back to the community that rejected him. Wilde knows there are deep seated secrets at the heart of this judgmental community and he must get to the bottom of these secrets to save a young girl’s life.

I came to The Boy From the Woods via my book club. Harlan Coben’s latest offering was selected for our monthly read along. I was quite excited about the prospect of reading The Boy From the Woods as I really enjoyed the Netflix series The Stranger, which is based on one of Coben’s popular titles. I was pleased to hear that there are a couple more adaptations in the works for Coben’s books.  The Boy From the Woods is another of Coben’s books that I could easily see up on the big screen, it has a great visual quality to it, along with a hooking mystery that will suck viewers in.

Harlan Coben’s latest begins with a cracking premise. I loved the idea of a boy from the woods appearing out of nowhere, with absolutely zero links to his past and family. It made for a very interesting opening and it hooked me right in. I loved Wilde’s back story, so much that I wanted more. I have the feeling that some of Wilde’s personal history was deliberately concealed. I think Coben may have plans to explore this character further in future novels.

The main plot involves the disappearance of a local girl. This thread was precisely plotted and it did offer multiple surprises. I didn’t see most of the action coming and it made for a good read. The storyline isn’t complex, but it will keep you guessing. The Boy from the Woods is full of weighty topics such as justice, trauma, power, politics, extortion, status, privilege, class, media relations, bullying, identity and even romance. The mystery side of things is speculative, with the reader able to play an active role in theorising over the various scenarios presented by Coben, with interesting results.

Coben’s characterisation is three dimensional. The cast are all well realised. I really liked Wilde and I enjoyed trying to work him out. Likewise, Hester, who I believe is a reoccurring character from Coben’s previous novels, is a commanding force. I did read The Boy From the Woods as a standalone, as it has been a few years ago since I read a Coben novel. It is perfectly fine to read this one as a standalone, independent of Coben’s extensive backlist.

The Boy from the Woods represents another scintillating thriller from a well-known personality in the publishing world.

*** 3.5 stars

The Boy from the Woods by Harlan Coben was published on 17th March 2020 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of The Boy from the Woods, Harlan Coben, visit here.

2 thoughts on “POPSUGAR READING CHALLENGE 2020: The Boy from the Woods by Harlan Coben

  1. A good pick for this Popsugar category, love his books! Glad you chose a male author too. Fourteen, only fourteen male authors are sitting on my bookshelves! Kind of appalling, I think. I’m determined when the Lions book shop reopens to buy lots of male authors books.
    I’m thinking of using my favourite author for this prompt but I have to see how I go, I might be able to find a book that is published in 2020 and can also match another category.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks very much Sue, I’m glad to hear you are a fan. I think with this one if was a case of a non review book read (it was a book club pick) and could I possibly fit in into a pop sugar category! Luckily it worked, I think it will start to get much harder the second half of the year! Wow fourteen male authors, that’s not too many in the big scheme of things, I’m glad to hear you will be seeking some more out. It will be great to return to op shopping again.

      This is such an open prompt, which is great. I hope you are able to assign your favourite author to this one – I look forward to seeing your choice!


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