Pros: Taken in the context of when it was written, it’s actually quite good
Cons: Heavy-handed preaching and tropes that have become overused
Rating: 3 (or 4) out of 5, depending on whether you’re able to take it in context or not
Review book courtesy of Penguin Group
Sara Lowell is a sweet newscaster; her husband is a basketball star. Their friends and family are New York’s elite—doctors, politicians, etc. Sara agrees to do a piece on her friend’s clinic, an HIV research clinic that’s in danger of running out of funds just as it seems to have discovered a possible cure. Her desire to help the clinic survive is altruistic, but it becomes much more personal when her husband is diagnosed. If that wasn’t bad enough, there seems to be a serial killer targeting patients from that clinic—but no one can figure out the pattern of who or why, which makes it impossible to figure out who will be next.
If I picked up Harlen Coben’s Miracle Cure today, with no knowledge that it was a re-release of a book written 20 years ago (and one of the author’s first) I’d be disappointed. There’s a lot of obvious talent in the writing style, but HIV isn’t quite the headline terror it used to be, there’s some heavy-handed sermonizing in here (although I’ve seen worse—at least this was conversational rather than pure lecturing), and the characters definitely exhibit signs of certain 80s and 90s tropes that writers try to avoid these days. Although even then, Coben does give them some depth, so within that context I’m pretty impressed.
The mystery takes quite a bit of time to unravel, with plenty of twists and turns. The quirky detective on the serial killer’s case (aptly nicknamed “Twitch”) was particularly fun when he took center stage. Sara was a little overly sweet, but again, that’s fairly normal for a heroine of that time period, and she wasn’t flat and uninteresting.
If you would be unable to set aside the current-day standards of what is overused, which types of characters tend to be avoided nowadays, and so on, you won’t enjoy the book and should probably pick up one of Coben’s more recent novels instead. If you can’t get past having some preachy characters in a book, again, skip it.
However, I found that having read the author’s introduction/warning, I was able to sit back and just enjoy the ride. Coben is a good enough author that his preachiness wasn’t as heavy-handed as some, and for the time period his characters weren’t all that bad. The mystery and action kept me glued to the pages, and I’d certainly read more by Coben, particularly if it’s recent.