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My best ‘mystery man’ yet

August 20, 2011

As the dog days of summer hang on, squeezing out every ounce of perspiration left in our wilted bodies, I am completely unphazed.
Why, you ask? How has this girl who despises Mississippi summers and dreams longingly of fall and winter’s cool breezes managed to negotiate the fiercely sizzling days of a typical August?
It has to be a man, right? Yep, you got it.
I have a new man in my life, and he’s hotter than a tall glass of straight up habanera sauce. We spend at least four leisurely hours each afternoon on my living room sofa in a delicious embrace. Sometimes we lounge snugly together in my dainty “ladies” recliner with Rebel and Lucky Dawg watching us jealously.
We often retire to the bedroom early, and I fall asleep with him in my arms.
I hang on to his every word and leave him reluctantly only when something major happens, like the smoke alarm goes off and a fire truck pulls into my driveway.
Unfortunately, my new love interest is married, but who cares? His name is Harlan and  I guess you could call this “love at first read.”  
Harlan Coben is the modern master of the hook-and-twist mystery novel. I discovered him by accident when I was visiting friends in Louisiana and my host offered me a worn paperback to help me get drowsy.
I stayed awake all night reading his adrenaline-pumping bestseller “Just One Look.” It was as full of twists and turns as the Mississippi River. Hitchcock would be green with envy. The only reason to put down this book is to be sure your doors are locked.
In that one read, I was hooked and Harlan Coben became the object of my affection.  He’s even better than the other “mystery men” with whom I’ve had a one-sided relationship over the years — men like James Patterson, John Sanford and Robert Parker.
When I got home, I rushed to the public library to find a delightful collection of Coben novels to keep me out of trouble for the rest of the summer.   
I’m seriously in danger of getting kicked out of my book club because Harlan occupies all my time, and I can’t find the energy or desire to read our summer selections.
Harlan, where have you been all my life?  But alas, I’m about to exhaust his sizable collection of novels. It will soon be time to find another beloved to get me through the remainder of this agonizing and disquieting year.
Not since 9/11 have I been in need of such complete escape. The dark and ominous accounts fed to us non-stop by cable news have been working on my nerves like a cheese grater.  
No longer. My recommendation is to cut off the television, and cuddle up with a good mystery writer. Excuse me now, Harlan is waiting.
Emily Jones is a retired journalist who edits a website for bouncing baby boomers facing retirement. She welcomes comments at

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