Hard-boiled detectives usually appear on the mean streets full-grown and already crusty about the edges - at least once you get past the usual backstories of military and/or police service. Harlan Coben's Myron Bolitar, however, has never been typical of the genre. For one thing, his musical tastes run more to The Pixies than Miles; for another, he's now engaged - to be married. He's still hardboiled, though. For one thing, his sidekick, Win, could take any other sidekick in literary history - including Hawk.
Bolitar didn't hatch as an adult, however. He has parents, and right now Mom and Dad are staying with him in the house where he grew up. What's new for Live Wire is that Bolitar has a baby brother. Never knew that, did you? Me, neither. That's probably because the brothers haven't spoken in sixteen years, not since Brad married teenaged tennis wunderkind Kitty Hammer, Myron's first client at MB SportsReps. Now Kitty has reappeared, announcing her return in dramatic fashion: a cruel lie posted to Suzze Tervantino's Facebook page, suggesting that the hugely pregnant Suzze's child is not that of her husband, rocker Lex Ryder - "Not His!" accompanied by a cryptic symbol.
Bolitar's determination to unravel the tangled mess of Kitty's life is driven partly by loyalty to Suzze and Lex, both clients, and partly by fear that he won't reconnect with his brother before his parents die. It's not just Kitty standing in his way, though. The road to Brad leads through sixteen years of lies and deception. Fasten your seatbelts, Bolitar fans - this is gonna be one bumpy road.
Never let it be said that Harlan Coben has gotten into a rut. Unlike many other series, each Bolitar mystery comes at the reader from a different direction. Sure, the usual cast is assembled here: suave, slightly psychopathic Win; ultra-Rubenesque Big Cyndi; and Myron's partner, Esperanza, formerly aka Littla Pocahontas. The bad guys are as bad as ever, the innocents as lovable as always. You can always count on that in a Bolitar mystery.
Coben maintains his usual flair, a writing style that always serves his readers equal parts of mayhem and funky, sometimes slightly dark humor. The Bolitar novels (unlike his standalones, such as Hold Tight) always contain little laugh-out-loud nuggets - often at the expense of Bolitar's receptionist, ex-wrestler Big Cyndi:
"The diet had darkened Big Cyndi's usually sunny demeanor. She had growled more than talked, Her makeup, usually a Joseph-and-the-Technicolor-Dreamcoat display, had been a harsh black 'n' white, landing somewhere between Nineties' goth and Seventies' Kiss. Now, as usual, her makeup looked as though it'd been applied by laying a sixty-four box of Crayolas on her face and turning up the heat lamp."
Live Wire manages to build the suspense and bring enough twists and turns to start a mountain-bike trail while still maintaining the background level of silliness Bolitar fans have come to expect. Be forewarned, though: Myron Bolitar, bless his cotton-pickin' heart, is a sucker for a sad story. This one may well prove to be his saddest story yet.