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Myron Bolitar: Harlan Coben’s Sporting Sleuth

IN THE August 22 ISSUE

FROM THE 2020 Articles,
andMysteryrat's Maze
SECTIONS

by Sharon Tucker

“Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play.” —Mike Singletary

Many friends have never accepted that I am indifferent to sports—it’s just fine, most of them are indifferent to Shakespeare so we are even as far as I am concerned. Explanations and justifications fall on deaf ears really on either side of the discussion. So, imagine the chorus of disbelieving exclamations when the subject of this latest book review came up in casual conversation recently. In my defense, I have to say that I enjoy Harlan Coben’s standalone mysteries so much that I simply felt I was missing out by not reading his Myron Bolitar series. Too, reading these books might give me some insight into this whole phenomenon that I feel incapable of grasping. So, I began reading, hoping that Coben’s skill as a mystery writer would overcome my repugnance for professional sports.

I started with the first three: Deal Breaker (1995), Drop Shot (1996), and Fade Away (1996), ever a fan of observing character development by reading novels in publication order. Deal Breaker finds Bolitar at the beginning of his professional career as a sports agent. In Drop Shot, we enter the murky world of unscrupulous sports trainers and agencies. Illegal gambling is the undoing of a major character in Fade Away.

The set up for the novels is that Bolitar had been a promising college basketball player himself, drafted by a pro ball team, only to have his knee blown out by a courtside collision. He rallied surprisingly well from that disappointment, earning a law degree as well as gaining field experience with the FBI. But what really grabbed his interest was sports representation. He and his partner Win make a formidable team indeed, since Windsor Horne Lockwood III, financial wiz, wealthy scion, and benign sociopath is everything Bolitar is not. Together they cover the bases much the same way Spenser and Hawk do. Add Esperanza Diaz, an erstwhile member of the FLOW organization—Fabulous Women of Wrestling—and receptionist with a capital attitude, and who could ask for anything more?

Deal Breaker begins with fledgling sports agent Bolitar in contract negotiation for a promising rookie quarterback with a couple of old pro team owners. As a negotiating tactic, the team owners call up a disappeared fiancé in the rookie’s past to rattle Bolitar and sweeten a lower salary and sign up bonus. Needless to say, it doesn’t work on Bolitar, but what it does do is spark his interest in finding out just what did happen and throwing this shabby tactic in their faces.

Drop Shot pulls the reader into the world of pro tennis. Bolitar is an equal opportunity agent, representing a cross-section of athletes. Here, though Bolitar is more experienced as an agent, even his experience cannot forestall the murder of a tennis star trying to make a comeback. There is the tragedy of the murder, of course, but then a more complicated twenty years past murder case turns out to be inextricably linked to this most recent one. Too, a current rising star in tennis has such a murky, impenetrable past bumping into this current scandal that Bolitar knows it too must be unraveled if he is to sort out what happened to his current client and the one he could not have helped so long ago.

Fade Away surprises from the get-go when Bolitar is drafted to step in as a replacement on the basketball team he had dreamed of playing for and had been drafted by before his injury. The star player for this team is missing in action, and the coach feels that Bolitar can investigate better from within the organization than without. The problem is that the coach will not like what Bolitar uncovers about gambling and his team or the players involved. Bolitar also has issues in his private life that get in the way of the investigation.

I found it so interesting that Bolitar harbors no resentment of his curtailed sports career in these novels. It’s refreshing. Maturity. I could get used to this. Too, this is a team of players I will want to continue to read—eleven and counting. I may never be a sports fan, but I am a fan of detective fiction and Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar has joined the pantheon of my favorites. Who would have thought it?

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A new episode went up this week!

Sharon Tucker is former faculty at the University of Memphis in Memphis TN, and now enjoys evening supervising in that campus library. Having forsworn TV except for online viewing and her own movies, she reads an average of 3 to 4 books per week and has her first novel—a mystery, of course—well underway.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mary Holshouser August 25, 2020 at 8:24am

I was never athletic. Don’t watch
any sports but I’ve enjoyed all of the
Bolitar stories. Have kept up with
the series and hope you’ll continue
to follow them. Always interesting
and entertaining.
txmlhl(at)yahoo(dot)com

Reply

2 Sharon August 29, 2020 at 3:01pm

Yup. I’m hooked. Though I may skimp on his lengthy descriptions of players playing I am right in there for the investigations and restoring order. Cheers!

Reply

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