JOPLIN, Mo. —
"SIX YEARS," by HARLAN COBEN: Jake Fisher is a tall, handsome political science professor at Lanford College. Jake and Natalie meet at the Creative Recharge Colony in Vermont. She is a painter, and he is finishing his political science dissertation at a nearby retreat. Their mutual attraction results in a three-month-long, intense summer romance. Jake honestly believes that he has met the love of his life.
Unexpectedly Natalie breaks up with Jake and announces that she is going to marry Todd, an old boyfriend. Jake is stunned, hurt and heartbroken. He attends the wedding to make sure that he isn't having a nightmare. Natalie makes Jake promise to leave her and Todd alone. She vehemently asserts that she wants no contact with Jake at all.
Six years has passed since Jake made that promise to Natalie not to contact or see her. Jake has been unhappy since the breakup and has never had a serious relationship. One day, he sees the obituary of her husband, Dr. Todd Sanderson, on the college website. Jake has kept his promise to leave the couple alone, but Todd is dead and the promise no longer counts.
Jake resolves to see Natalie, and he travels to Florida. He surreptitiously attends Todd's funeral, but the widow is not Natalie! He discovers that Todd has been married to another woman for over 20 years and even has teenage children. He learns from Todd's widow that Todd was murdered but was first tortured.
So where is Natalie? Jake's Internet searches reveal nothing about her during the past six years. There is no record of Natalie and Todd's marriage.
Jake returns to the retreat where they first met and discovers that it doesn't exist. Friends of Jake and Natalie either can't be found or don't remember Jake. Even Natalie's sister says she doesn't remember him. No one knows where Natalie is -- or won't tell him if they do know.
As he hunts for Natalie, Jake becomes aware that other people are also looking for her, people who want to do her serious harm. He suddenly realizes that his own life is in danger when two men kidnap and nearly kill him. Despite the fact that the situation is spinning wildly out of control, Jake refuses to give up the search for his lost love.
Harlan Coben is a superb suspense writer who has written an intense thriller/love story, although I personally think he should stick with the thrillers and leave the romances to romance writers.
This stand-alone novel's plot is fast-paced and full of twists. The intrigue begins early and concludes with an incredibly dramatic ending.
Coben's lively style, with his brand of humor, is fascinating from the beginning. He has Jake narrate the story in an almost conversational manner. Jake makes an appealing hero who is clever, sexy, charming and friendly.
I listened to the audiobook version and was a little disappointed in Scott Brick's narration, which is usually excellent but seemed overly dramatic in this audiobook.
On a different note, I was pleased to read that there are plans to make this novel into a movie starring Hugh Jackman as Jake.
"Six Years" is available at the Joplin Public Library in regular print and large print, as well as the audiobook.
PHYLISS SEESENGOOD is the technical services librarian for the Joplin Public Library.