Harlan Coben Books In Order: The Definitive Guide

Within the contemporary thriller and mystery genres, Harlan Coben’s work stands up there as an example of great storytelling, unique scenarios, and engaging characters – which goes some way to suggest why his books remain so popular for so many people around the world.

Harlan Coben Books: The Definitive Reading Order!

With 35 books in his back catalog, Coben is one of the most accomplished authors in the industry, which is surprising to say that he has only been professionally active as a novelist since the early 1990s.

What’s more, his work has been adapted several times into movies – such as Tell No One, which was made into the 2006 French language thriller Ne Le Dis a Personne – and television dramas – including No Second Chance and Just One Look (each made into a French miniseries’ in 2015 and 2017 respectively).

What Are His Novels About?

While there are several distinct series within his wider catalog of work, they all tend to follow characters linked together in the same narrative world.

His first two novels Play Dead (1990) and Miracle Cure (1991) were both stand alone romantic suspense novels that gained publication due to their originality and quality.

However, it wasn’t until 1995 that he really started getting attention in the literary world, writing and publishing a series of mystery novels based around his character Myron Bolitar – a former basketball player turned sports agent who unwittingly finds himself investigating mysteries surrounding his clients.

Beginning with the novel Deal Breaker in 1995, this series proved popular with fans and critics alike and set the tone for his future publications spanning the next two decades.

What Is The Definitive Reading Order?

Many of these novels belong to specific series within the back catalog, and as such, they can be separated into those sections when reading the novels.

These series’ include the Myron Bolitar Series, the Mickey Bolitar Series, the Wilde Series, and the Windsor Horne Lockwood III Series.

However, the definitive reading, by order of publication, goes as follows.

Play Dead (1990)

Play Dead

The first novel written and published by Coben, Play Dead tells the story of supermodel Laura Ayers, and her doomed husband, the Celtics star David Baskin, who after only being married a few short days, are struck with tragedy when David dies mysteriously on the Great Barrier Reef.

Widowed and troubled by the death, Laura digs through lies and treachery to find the truth about her husband’s mysterious disappearance.

Pros

  • Thrilling and suspenseful
  • Original scenario and characters
  • Well written and engaging

Cons

  • Longer than necessary

Miracle Cure (1991)

Miracle Cure

The second novel written by Coben, Miracle Cure tells the story of television journalist Sara Lowell and her basketball star husband Michael Silverman.

Set in New York City, the story sees a deadly virus taking hold of residents, and a tireless doctor working to cure them as quickly as possible.

However, a serial killer seems to be targeting the sufferers as soon as they are cured, and unfortunately for Sara, Michael has just been diagnosed with the disease.

Pros

  • Suspenseful and tense throughout
  • Well rounded characters
  • Good sense of peril and imminent danger
  • Unique narrative

Cons

  • The subject material hasn’t aged well

Deal Breaker (1995)

Deal Breaker (Myron Bolitar 01)

Marking the first novel in the popular Myron Bolitar series, Deal Breaker tells the story of the aforementioned Bolitar, who turns to find work as a sports agent following a successful basketball career.

However, when Christian Steele (Myron’s prized client) receives a phone call from a former girlfriend who was presumed dead, Myron finds himself plunged into a world of sex and blackmail as he attempts to solve the mystery, protect his client, and remain out of trouble.

Pros

  • Well written
  • Suspenseful and intriguing
  • Unique narrative
  • Memorable, likable protagonist

Cons

  • Less engaging than other novels

Drop Shot (1996)

Drop Shot

The second novel in the much loved Myron Bolitar series, Drop Shot sees the aforementioned sports agent find himself embroiled in a world of lies, rage, and corruption following the tragic death of a young woman.

Pros

  • Suspenseful and tense
  • Good use of mystery
  • Well written
  • Unique narrative
  • Relatable characters

Cons

  • Weaker than others in the series

Fade Away (1996)

Fade Away [Paperback] [Apr 24, 2014] Harlan Coben

Following the exploits of wisecracking, goodhearted sports agent Myron Bolitar, Fade Away sees the character wrestle with a troubling past, following the disappearance of a player he once competed against as a basketball player.

After Greg Downing disappears with only a disheveled New Jersey home and some traces of blood left behind, Myron finds himself pulled into a sordid world of gamblers, groupies, crooks, and celebrities as he tries to figure out what happened to Downing.

Pros

  • Tense and action-packed
  • Weaving and mysterious throughout
  • Well crafted thriller
  • Strong character work throughout

Cons

  • Darker than previous titles

Back Spin (1997)

Back Spin [Paperback] Harlan Coben (author)

After the teenage son of golfer Linda Coldren is kidnapped, Myron Bolitar is on the case to track down some leads and get the boy back unharmed.

Chasing for clues against the backdrop of the US Open, Myron must wrestle with aristocrats, criminals, and killers to find the truth – a truth that might be closer to home than any of them first thought.

Pros

  • Good change of setting
  • Interesting subplots
  • Well crafted thriller
  • Suspenseful throughout

Cons

  • More predictable than previous novels

One False Move (1998)

One False Move

Book five in the Myron Bolitar series, One False Move sees the famed sports agent acting as bodyguard to young basketball star Brenda Slaughter – a young woman with her own share of troubles, including a mother who disappeared when she was a girl.

In digging up the past, Myron and Brenda encounter dangerous people looking to cause them harm, and a web of lies that is more complex than they first thought.

Pros

  • Good character interactions
  • Tense and suspenseful
  • Well crafted thriller
  • Relatable characters
  • Strong villains

Cons

  • Weaker ending than usual

The Final Detail (1999)

The Final Detail [Paperback] [Apr 21, 2011] Harlan Coben

After Bolitar’s friend and colleague Esperanza is falsely accused of the murder of a fallen client making a comeback, Myron sets out to prove his friend’s innocence, and track down the real killer at the heart of the tragedy.

Pros

  • Good character relationships
  • Well crafted thriller
  • Suspenseful and tense throughout
  • Plenty of twists and turns

Cons

  • More of a slow burn than usual

Darkest Fear (2000)

Darkest Fear (Myron Bolitar 07)

Perhaps Coben’s most personal novel yet, Darkest Fear sees Myron Bolitar visited by an ex-girlfriend, who reveals that he is the father to her young and sick son Jeremy – who is dying and requires a bone marrow transplant.

However, when the matching donor vanishes without a trace, it is down to Myron to save the son he never knew he had, and maybe reconnect with what he has lost in the process.

Pros

  • Deeper and more emotional
  • Dramatic and tense
  • Heartrending and suspenseful
  • Great character development
  • Well crafted thriller

Cons

  • Different from past novels

Tell No One (2001)

Tell No One: A Novel

One of Coben’s most popular novels – and the subject of a French language adaptation – Tell No One follows Dr. David Beck, a widower whose wife was killed by a serial killer some years prior.

However, after he receives a message containing information only his deceased wife would know, Beck finds himself embroiled in a cat-and-mouse game for the truth.

Pros

  • Plenty of twists and turns
  • Suspenseful and tense throughout
  • Emotional and tragic
  • Dark and brooding
  • Relatable characters

Cons

  • Weaker than past novels

Gone For Good (2002)

Gone for Good: A Novel

Following the story of Will Klein, whose world is shattered when his hero and older brother (Ken) is accused of the murder of a local girl.

However, after his brother disappears, and eleven years pass, Will finds evidence that he is still alive and kicking – not to mention innocent of the crimes he was once accused of.

Pros

  • Action-packed and exciting
  • Tense and suspenseful
  • Mysterious, winding narrative
  • Strong original characters

Cons

  • Disappointing conclusion

No Second Chance (2003)

No Second Chance

Following an attack from an armed assailant, Dr. Marc Seidman found his wife dead and his young daughter missing.

Lying in hospital with two bullet wounds in him, his world is torn asunder when the random notes start appearing – notes that threaten to destroy what little he has left unless he cooperates.

Out of options and unsure who to trust, Seidman sets out to find his daughter – whatever the cost.

Pros

  • Heartbreaking and emotive
  • Suspenseful and tense
  • Action-packed and mysterious
  • Well crafted tension

Cons

  • Weaker characters than other books

Just One Look (2004)

Just One Look

After developing some photos and finding a younger photo of her husband – something he denies – Grace Lawson soon finds him vanished and the photo gone.

Now with a silent killer hunting down her family, and mysteries piling up left and right, Grace must delve into her own murky past if she is to discover the truth.

Pros

  • Suspenseful and tense
  • Action-packed
  • Solid character work
  • Good storytelling
  • Great thriller

Cons

  • Not as good as the Bolitar series

The Innocent (2005)

The Innocent: A Suspense Thriller

Following his imprisonment for manslaughter, Matt Hunter returns to his old life looking to get back what he lost.

However, following the death of a mysterious pursuer, as well as a beloved local nun, the authorities have only one man on their radar: Matt himself.

Fleeing the law, Matt must delve into his own murky past to find the identity of the real killer before it is too late.

Pros

  • Action-packed and tense
  • Suspenseful
  • Mysterious
  • Strong character

Cons

  • More formulaic than past work

Promise Me (2006)

Promise Me (Myron Bolitar 08)

A return to the popular Myron Bolitar series, Promise Me sees the beloved sports agent in a desperate bid to protect neighborhood kids from a mysterious threat.

After a girl is kidnapped and Myron was the last to see her, he finds himself once more embroiled in danger and scandal, as he races against time to track down the missing girl.

Pros

  • Darker and emotive
  • A return to form by Coben
  • Strong character development
  • Tense and suspenseful

Cons

  • Blander than past novels

The Woods (2007)

The Woods

Following the exploits of Paul Copeland – a man mourning the death of his sister twenty years previously – who finds his life turned upside down when a homicide victim is discovered with evidence linked to him.

Hopeful that this means his sister could still be alive, Paul must wrestle with his own troubling past in order to find the truth.

Pros

  • Page turner
  • Well-written and crafted
  • Tense and suspenseful
  • Emotive and tragic

Cons

  • Formulaic

Hold Tight (2008)

Hold Tight: A Suspense Thriller

Hold Tight tells the story of Tia and Mike Baye, who become worried about their son’s mental health following the suicide of his school friend.

After monitoring his computer and seeing a message telling him to ‘keep quiet’, Tia and Mike grow even more concerned.

However, when their son goes missing too, it seems that there might be something more insidious going on in their small community.

Pros

  • Heartrending and emotive
  • Tense and suspenseful
  • Great thriller

Cons

  • Disappointing ending

Long Lost (2009)

Long Lost [Paperback] Harlan Coben

Diving back into the Myron Bolitar series, Long Lost sees the sports agent contacted by a former old flame, who needs him to come to Paris to help her track down her long-lost daughter – one that supposedly died in a car accident some years prior.

Delving into their murky pasts, Bolitar and his ex-lover Terese Collins must stop at nothing to find the truth and avoid greater consequences.

Pros

  • Interesting new location
  • Strong thriller
  • Tense and action-packed

Cons

  • Implausible plot elements

Caught (2010)

Caught

Caught follows the experiences of reporter Wendy Tynes who makes a living from catching sexual offenders.

However, when someone close to her stumbles into their trap, Tynes finds herself questioning everything she holds dear, and unable to trust those around her.

Pros

  • Great thriller
  • Tense and suspenseful
  • Nice change of pace for Coben
  • Strong female lead

Cons

  • Weaker than past works

Live Wire (2011)

Live Wire (Myron Bolitar)

Returning to the exploits of Myron Bolitar, Live Wire sees the sports agent tasked with tracking down the rockstar husband of tennis star Suzze T, who vanished following evidence that questioned the paternity of their baby.

In the pursuit of the rockstar, Myron encounters his long-lost brother and sister-in-law, who left the family some years ago.

Pros

  • Magnetic and compelling
  • Action-packed and exciting
  • Well written prose
  • Tense at times

Cons

  • Much weaker installment

Shelter (2011)

Shelter (Book One): A Mickey Bolitar Novel

Following the exploits of Mickey Bolitar, the estranged nephew of fan-favorite Myron, Shelter sees the young man moving in with his sports agent uncle and settling into a new school.

For a time everything seems to be improving, that is until his new girlfriend Ashley goes missing, he stumbles into a conspiracy that is darker than he could have ever imagined.

Pros

  • A fresh new take on the series
  • A likable, relatable character
  • Action-packed
  • Tense and suspenseful

Cons

  • Aimed at younger audiences (young adult)

Seconds Away (2012)

Seconds Away (Book Two): A Mickey Bolitar Novel

The second novel in the Mickey Bolitar series, Seconds Away sees the young crime solver in the grips of another tragedy, as a close friend finds herself at the center of a murder investigation.

Racing to protect those close to him from harm, Mickey finds himself in a world of mystery, secrets, and lies that he fears he might never escape from.

Pros

  • Suspenseful and tense
  • Well crafted thriller
  • Strong protagonist
  • Action-packed

Cons

  • Poor ending

Stay Close (2012)

Stay Close

Focusing on the dark side of the American Dream, Stay Close follows three separate people – a soccer mom, a failed photographer, and a haunted detective – who are living lives they never wanted for themselves.

However, after a series of tragic events threaten to bring their past secrets and failures to the forefront, they must all confront their own shortcomings and put the past to bed once and for all.

Pros

  • Interesting narrative style
  • Unique concept
  • Intriguing characters
  • Tense and suspenseful

Cons

  • Confusing at times

Six Years (2013)

Six Years

Following the exploits of Jake Fisher, whose unrequited love for his supposedly married ex-girlfriend Natalie sees him torn up and heartbroken, Six Years is a mystery thriller that will leave you reeling.

After discovering the obituary of her new husband, Jake crashes the funeral, only to find that the grieving widow is another woman and that Natalie was never married to him.

As he digs deeper, he finds nothing but dead ends, and acquaintances who can’t even remember Jake.

Pros

  • Unique narrative
  • Gripping thriller
  • Tense and suspenseful
  • Mind-bending

Cons

  • Complex
  • Formulaic at times

Missing You (2014)

Missing You

Missing You follows the story of NYPD detective Kat Donovan – who after finding her ex-fiance on an online dating site, unwittingly stumbles upon a twisting conspiracy linked to numerous tragedies in her past.

Unsure of who to trust, Kat finds herself alone as she looks for answers in a world of lies.

Pros

  • Well crafted story
  • Good character development
  • Tense and suspenseful

Cons

  • Unrealistic at times

Found (2014)

Found (A Mickey Bolitar Novel)

Seeking to learn the truth about his father’s death, Mickey Bolitar asks for the help of his uncle Myron, as well as his friends Ema and Spoon, as they track down clues and solve a mystery that has long haunted Mickey’s life.

Pros

  • Suspenseful and tense
  • Action-packed
  • Strong character development
  • Good thriller

Cons

  • Weaker than past work

The Stranger (2015)

The Stranger

After encountering a mysterious stranger, who informs him of troubling facts pertaining to his seemingly perfect marriage, Adam Price finds his world coming apart at the seams as he tries to come to terms with the lies and deceit that have formed the very framework of his existence.

But who is the stranger, and how could they possibly have so much on him?

Pros

  • Great little thriller
  • Tense and suspenseful
  • Disturbing and action-packed
  • Great characterization

Cons

  • Weak ending

Home (2016)

Home (Myron Bolitar)

Following the exploits of Myron Bolitar and his friend Win, Home focuses on a pair of kidnapped boys, who despite their wealthy families paying the ransom, proceeded to disappear for ten years.

However, when Myron and Win think they have discovered one of the boys, they find themselves going from one mystery to something even bigger.

Pros

  • Suspenseful and tense
  • Well crafted thriller
  • Good return of Bolitar
  • Good character development

Cons

  • Still weaker than past novels

The Magical Fantastical Fridge (2016)

The Magical Fantastical Fridge

A deviation from his usual genres, The Magical Fantastical Fridge sees the thriller author try his hand at children’s writing – telling the story of a boy named Walden, who after wishing he could get out of his chores, finds himself pulled into one of the drawings on his fridge.

What proceeds is a great fantasy yarn that kids will enjoy!

Pros

  • Imaginative and colorful
  • Lighthearted yet exciting

Cons

  • Potentially confusing for some

Fool Me Once (2016)

Fool Me Once

Following her return from the war, special ops pilot Maya is shocked to see her baby daughter playing with her recently deceased husband on the nanny cam.

Heading out in search of answers, Maya has to realize that not everything she thought she knew was correct and that even those closest to you can spin deception.

Pros

  • Emotive and tense
  • Suspenseful
  • Creepy at times
  • Great characterization

Cons

  • Weak ending

Don’t Let Go (2017)

Don't Let Go: A Novel

Following the story of New Jersey detective Napoleon ‘Nap’ Dumas and his haunted past, Don’t Let Go tells the story of a man heartbroken by his brother’s death, and his surprise as his ex-girlfriend’s fingerprints suddenly appear on the rental car of a suspected murderer.

With the past and present colliding, Nap searches for answers, all the while dredging the darkness of his own past for something he might have missed.

Pros

  • Strong thriller
  • Tense and suspenseful
  • Action-packed and moody
  • Great characterization of Nap

Cons

  • Depressing subject matter

Run Away (2019)

Run Away

Run Away tells the story of a parent looking for their troubled, drug-addicted daughter, who vanished years prior.

When she turns up in Central Park playing guitar, she seems different – changed by some unknown plight.

Upon chasing after her and looking for answers, they discover that the truth can be much harsher than any simple nightmare.

Pros

  • Interesting
  • A fresh approach for Coben
  • Tense and suspenseful
  • Weaving and mysterious

Cons

  • Somewhat predictable and formulaic

The Boy From The Woods (2020)

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The latest series in Coben’s work, The Boy From The Woods tells the story of Wilde, a man who was found living feral in the woods as a boy.

When a young girl goes missing, it seems like the only person who cares is Wilde – as well as well-known TV criminal attorney Hester Crimstein.

After delving into a world of darkness and deceit, the unlikely duo discovers things about their own pasts that they would have rather left buried.

Pros

  • Unique story
  • Good character dynamics
  • Tense story
  • Action-packed and moody

Cons

  • Convoluted at times

Win (2021)

Win (Windsor Horne Lockwood III)

Following the exploits of Windsor Horne Lockwood III, Win sees the wealthy friend of Myron Bolitar take on the mystery surrounding his own past – specifically the disappearance and robbery of Patricia Lockwood some 20 years prior.

While Patricia was found, the kidnappers never were – something Win intends to remedy.

Pros

  • Witty and engaging
  • Tense at times
  • Well crafted thriller

Cons

  • Unlikeable protagonist

The Match (2022)

The Match

The second novel in the Wilde series, The Match sees the genius former wildman having given up his attempts at domesticity, having returned to the Ramapo mountains and his own solitude.

However, when a DNA result seems to provide answers to his mysterious past, Wilde goes looking for answers – encountering hardship, heartbreak, and the Stranger along the way.

Pros

  • Intriguing storyline
  • Likable protagonist
  • Tense at times
  • Action-packed

Cons

  • Convoluted at times
  • Disappointing ending

Final Thoughts

If you are looking to read Harlan Coben’s work, then be sure to follow this reading order. Something tells me you won’t be disappointed!

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Coben’s Books Suitable For Younger Readers?

While Coben’s more famous ‘Myron Bolitar’ series is aimed at adult readers, the spin-off ‘Mickey Bolitar’ series is designated ‘teen fiction’, and as such suited to young adult readers.

Are Harlan Coben Books Scary?

Coben’s work is centered within the psychological thriller and mystery genres, so while they might not be ‘scary’ per se, they are suspenseful and tense at times.

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Anna Davis