I've read a few Harlan Coben books recently and I have thoroughly enjoyed his Myron Bolitar series. In Fade Away, he definitely raises the bar and moves from being not just an entertaining mystery writer, but also a well-written one.
Myron Bolitar is a 32 year old lawyer who runs his own sports agency. At one time, he was one of the top college players in the country. But after being drafted by the Celtics, he blows his knee out in a preseason scrimmage and his potential career is history. Now, the owner and general manager of the New Jersey Dragons want him to find one of their stars, Greg Downing, who has gone missing right before tournaments are to begin. In order not to raise suspicions, they place Bolitar on the team so that he can better investigate what has happened. Downing and Bolitar have been in competition since they were in high school, and it wasn't always about basketball. Bolitar finds many reasons for the possible disappearance of Downing that range from compulsive gambling to possible murder.
When I first started reading Coben, I thought the characters were a little too much like Robert Parker's Spenser and Hawk. But I've come to appreciate them on a new level. As a person who has played and coached basketball, Coben is right on in his observations about the game and the players. In describing Bolitar's complicated relationship with Downing, he says "there is a special bond between competitors. Kinda like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. You become defined by one another. It was like that with Greg and me. It was unspoken, but we both knew the bond was there." TC, the other Dragon star tells Bolitar about the price of being a star. " The real price is you ain't a person anymore. You're just a thing, a shiny thing like one of these Benzes out there. The poor brothers think I'm a golden ladder with goodies at every step up. The rich white boys think I'm a fancy pet."
The plot in Fade Away is also much more intricate than usual, and the ending has a stunner of a surprise. I never saw it coming. The one thing that kept me from giving it five stars is that the plot line where Bolitar is recruited to play is a big stretch. Otherwise, this was a pretty awesome book.