Myron never saw it coming. A surprise visit from an ex-girlfriend is unsettling enough. But Emily Downing’s news brings him to his knees. Her son Jeremy is dying and needs a bone-marrow transplant—from a donor who has vanished without a trace. Then comes the real shocker: The boy is Myron’s son, conceived the night before her wedding to another man.
Staggered by the news, Myron plunges into a search for the missing donor. But finding him means cracking open a dark mystery that involves a broken family, a brutal kidnapping spree, and the FBI. Somewhere in the sordid mess is the donor who disappeared. And as doubts emerge about Jeremy’s true paternity, a child vanishes, igniting a chain reaction of heartbreaking truth and chilling revelation.
Praise for Darkest Fear
“A slam dunk . . . You race to turn the pages . . . both suspenseful and often surprisingly funny.”—People
“A winner.”—Orlando Sentinel
“Fast-paced . . . layered with both tenderness and fun . . . Coben [is] a gifted storyteller.”—Denver Post
About the Author
Hometown:Ridgewood, New Jersey
Date of Birth:January 4, 1962
Place of Birth:Newark, New Jersey
Education:B.A. in political science, Amherst College, 1984
Read an Excerpt
An hour before his world exploded like a ripe tomato under a stiletto heel, Myron bit into a fresh pastry that tasted suspiciously like a urinal cake.
"Well?" Mom prompted.
Myron battled his throat, won a costly victory, swallowed. "Not bad."
Mom shook her head, disappointed.
"I'm a lawyer," Mom said. "You'd think I'd have raised a better liar."
"You did the best you could," Myron said.
She shrugged and waved a hand at the, uh, pastry. "It's my first time baking, bubbe. It's okay to tell me the truth."
"It's like biting into a urinal cake," Myron said.
"In men's public bathrooms. In the urinals. They put them there for the smell or something."
"And you eat them?"
"Is that why your father takes so long in there? He's having a little Tastykake? And here I thought his prostate was acting up."
"I'm joking, Mom."
She smiled through blue eyes tinged with a red that Visine could never hope to get out, the red you can only get through slow, steady tears. Normally Mom was heavily into histrionics. Slow, steady tears were not her style. "So am I, Mr. Smarty Pants. You think you're the only one in this family with a sense of humor?"
Myron said nothing. He looked down at the, uh, pastry, fearing or perhaps hoping it might crawl away. In the thirty-plus years his mother had lived in this house, she had never baked -- not from a recipe, not from scratch, not even from one of those Pillsbury morning croissant thingies that came in small mailing tubes. She could barely boil water without strict instructions and pretty much never cooked, though she could whip up a mean Celeste frozen pizza in the microwave, her agile fingers dancing across the numerical keypad in the vein of Nureyev at Lincoln Center. No, in the Bolitar household, the kitchen was more a gathering place -- a Family Room Lite, if you will -- than anything related to even the basest of the culinary arts. The round table held magazines and catalogs and congealing white boxes of Chinese takeout. The stovetop saw less action than a Merchant-Ivory production. The oven was a prop, strictly for show, like a politician's Bible.
Something was definitely amiss.
They were sitting in the living room with the dated pseudo-leather white modular couch and aqua-tinged rug whose shagginess reminded Myron of a toilet-seat cover. Grown-up Greg Brady. Myron kept stealing glances out the picture window at the For Sale sign in the front yard as though it were a spaceship that had just landed and something sinister was about to step out.
Mom gave a weary wave toward the door. "He's in the basement."
"In my room?"
"Your old room, yes. You moved out, remember?"
He did -- at the tender age of thirty-four no less. Childcare experts would salivate and tsk-tsk over that one -- the prodigal son choosing to remain in his split-level cocoon long after the deemed appropriate deadline for the butterfly to break free. But Myron might argue the opposite. He might bring up the fact that for generations and in most cultures, offspring lived in the familial home until a ripe old age, that adopting such a philosophy could indeed be a societal boom, helping people stay rooted to something tangible in this era of the disintegrating nuclear family. Or, if that rationale didn't float your boat, Myron could try another. He had a million.
But the truth of the matter was far simpler: He liked hanging out in the burbs with Mom and Dad -- even if confessing such a sentiment was about as hip as an Air Supply eight track.
"So what's going on?" he asked.
"Your father doesn't know you're here yet," she said. "He thinks you're not coming for another hour."
Myron nodded, puzzled. "What's he doing in the basement?"
"He bought a computer. Your father plays with it down there."
"My point exactly. The man can't change a lightbulb without a manual -- all of a sudden he's Bill Gates. Always on the nest."
"The Net," Myron corrected.
"It's called the Net, Mom."
"I thought it was nest. The bird's nest or something."
"No, it's Net."
"Are you sure? I know there's a bird in there somewhere."
"The Web maybe," Myron tried. "Like with a spider."
She snapped her fingers. "That's it. Anyway your father is on there all the time, weaving the Web or whatever. He chats with people, Myron. That's what he tells me. He chats with complete strangers. Like he used to do with the CB radio, remember?"
Myron remembered. Circa 1976. Jewish Dads in the suburbs checking for "smokeys" on the way to the delicatessen. Mighty convoy of Cadillac Sevilles. Ten-four, good buddy.
"And that's not all," she went on. "He's typing his memoirs. A man who can't scribble down a grocery list without consulting Strunk and White suddenly thinks he's an ex-president."
They were selling the house. Myron still could not believe it. His eyes wandered about the overly familiar surroundings, his gaze getting snagged on the photographs running up the stairwell. He saw his family mature via fashion -- the skirts and sideburns lengthening and shortening, the quasi-hippie fringes and suede and tie-dyes, the leisure suits and bell-bottoms, the frilly tuxedos that would be too tacky for a Vegas casino -- the years flying by frame by frame like one of those depressing life insurance commercials. He spotted the poses from his basketball days -- a sixth-grade suburban-league foul shot, an eighth-grade drive to the hoop, a high school slam dunk -- the row ending with Sports Illustrated cover shots, two from his days at Duke and one with his leg in a cast and a large-fonted IS HE FINISHED? emblazoned across his knee-cast image (the answer in the mind's eye being an equally large-fonted YES!).
"So what's wrong?" he asked.
"I didn't say anything was wrong."
Myron shook his head, disappointed. "And you a lawyer."
"Setting a bad example?"
"It's no wonder I never ran for higher office."
She folded her hands on her lap. "We need to chat."
Myron didn't like the tone.
"But not here," she added. "Let's take a walk around the block."
Myron nodded and they rose. Before they reached the door, his cell phone rang. Myron snatched it up with a speed that would have made Wyatt Earp step back. He put the phone to his ear and cleared his throat.
"MB SportsReps," he said, silky-smooth, professional-like. "This is Myron Bolitar speaking."
"Nice phone voice," Esperanza said. "You sound like Billy Dee ordering two Colt 45s."
Esperanza Diaz was his longtime assistant and now sports-agent partner at MB SportsReps (M for Myron, the B for Bolitar -- for those keeping score).
"I was hoping you were Lamar," he said.
"He hasn't called yet?"
He could almost see Esperanza frown. "We're in deep doo-doo here," she said.
"We're not in deep doo-doo. We're just sucking a little wind, that's all."
"Sucking a little wind," Esperanza repeated. "Like Pavarotti running the Boston Marathon."
"Good one," Myron said.
Lamar Richardson was a power-hitting Golden Glove shortstop who'd just become a free agent -- "free agent" being a phrase agents whisper in the same way a mufti might whisper "Praise Allah." Lamar was shopping for new representation and had whittled his final list down to three agencies: two supersized conglomerates with enough office space to house a Price Club and the aforementioned pimple-on-the-buttocks but oh-so-personal MB SportsReps. Go, pimple-butt!
Myron watched his mother standing by the door. He switched ears and said, "Anything else?"
"You'll never guess who called," Esperanza said.
"Elle and Claudia demanding another menage a trois?"
She would never just tell him. With his friends, everything was a TV game show. "How about a hint?" he said.
"One of your ex-lovers."
He felt a jolt. "Jessica."
Esperanza made a buzzing noise. "Sorry, wrong bitch."
Myron was puzzled. He'd only had two long-term relationships in his life: Jessica on and off for the past thirteen years (now very off). And before that, well, you'd have to go back to...
Esperanza made a ding-ding noise.
A sudden image pierced his heart like a straight-blade. He saw Emily sitting on that threadbare couch in the frat basement, smiling that smile at him, her legs bent and tucked under her, wearing his high school varsity jacket that was several sizes too big, her gesturing hands slipping down and disappearing into the sleeves.
His mouth went dry. "What did she want?"
"Don't know. But she said that she simply had to talk to you. She's very breathy, you know. Like everything she says is a double entendre."
With Emily, everything was.
"She good in the sack?" Esperanza asked.
Being an overly attractive bisexual, Esperanza viewed everyone as a potential sex partner. Myron wondered what that must be like, to have and thus weigh so many options, and then he decided to leave that road untraveled. Wise man.
"What did Emily say exactly?" Myron said.
"Nothing specific. She just spewed out a colorful assortment of breathy teasers: urgent, life-and-death, grave matters, etceteras, etceteras."
"I don't want to talk to her."
"I didn't think so. If she calls back, you want me to give her the runaround?"
"Mas tarde then."
He hung up as a second image whacked him like a surprise wave at the beach. Senior year at Duke. Emily so composed as she dumped the varsity jacket onto his bed and walked out. Not long after that, she married the man who'd ruin Myron's life.
Deep breaths, he told himself. In and out. That's it.
"Everything okay?" Mom asked.
Mom shook her head again, disappointed.
"I'm not lying," he said.
"Fine, right, sure, you always breathe like an obscene phone call. Listen, if you don't want to tell your mother--"
"I don't want to tell my mother."
"Who raised you and..."
Myron tuned her out, as was his custom. She was digressing again, taking on a past life or something. It was something she did a lot. One minute she was thoroughly modern, an early feminist who marched alongside Gloria Steinem and became proof that -- to quote her old T-shirt -- A Woman's Place Is in the House ... and Senate. But at the sight of her son, her progressive attire slid to the floor and revealed the babushka-clad yenta beneath the burned bra. It made for an interesting childhood.
They headed out the front door. Myron kept his eyes on the For Sale sign as though it might suddenly brandish a gun. His mind flashed onto something he had never actually seen -- the sunny day when Mom and Dad had arrived here for the first time, hand in hand, Mom's belly swelling with child, both of them scared and exhilarated realizing that this cookie-cut three-bedroom split-level would be their life vessel, their SS American Dream. Now, like it or not, that journey was coming to an end. Forget that "close one door, open another" crap. That For Sale sign marked the end -- the end of youth, of middle age, of a family, the universe of two people who'd started here and fought here and raised kids here and worked and carpooled and lived their lives here.
They walked up the street. Leaves were piled along the curb, the surest sign of suburban autumn, while leaf blowers shattered the still air like helicopters over Saigon. Myron took the inside track so his path would skim the piles' edges. The dead leaves crackled under his sneakers and he liked that. He wasn't sure why.
"Your father spoke to you," Mom said, half-question. "About what happened to him."
Myron felt his stomach tense up. He veered deeper into the leaves, lifting his legs high and crunching louder. "Yes."
"What did he say exactly?" Mom asked.
"That he'd had chest pains while I was in the Caribbean."
The Kaufman house had always been yellow, but the new family had painted it white. It looked wrong with the new color, out of place. Some homes had gone the aluminum-siding route, while others had built on additions, bumping out the kitchens and master bedrooms. The young family who'd moved into the Miller home had gotten rid of the Millers' trademark overflowing flower boxes. The new owners of the Davis place had ripped out those wonderful shrubs Bob Davis had worked on every weekend. It all reminded Myron of an invading army ripping down the flags of the conquered.
"He didn't want to tell you," Mom said. "You know your father. He still feels he has to protect you."
Myron nodded, stayed in the leaves.
Then she said, "It was more than chest pains."
"It was a full-blown coronary," she went on, not meeting his eyes. "He was in intensive care for three days." She started blinking. "The artery was almost entirely blocked."
Myron felt his throat close.
"It's changed him. I know how much you love him, but you have to accept that."
Her voice was gentle and firm. "That your father is getting older. That I'm getting older."
He thought about it. "I'm trying," he said.
"But I see that For Sale sign--"
"Wood and bricks and nails, Myron."
She waded through the leaves and took hold of his elbow. "Listen to me. You mope around here like we're sitting shiva, but that house is not your childhood. It isn't a part of your family. It doesn't breathe or think or care. It's just wood and bricks and nails."
"You've lived there for almost thirty-five years."
He turned away, kept walking.
"Your father wants to be honest with you," she said, "but you're not making it any easier."
"Why? What did I do?"
She shook her head, looked up into the sky as though willing divine inspiration, continued walking. Myron stayed by her side. She snaked her arm under his elbow and leaned against him.
"You were always a terrific athlete," she said. "Not like your father. Truth be told, your father was a spaz."
"I know this," Myron said.
"Right. You know this because your father never pretended to be something he wasn't. He let you see him as human -- vulnerable even. And it had a strange effect on you. You worshipped him all the more. You turned him into something almost mythical."
Myron thought about it, didn't argue. He shrugged and said, "I love him."
"I know, sweetheart. But he's just a man. A good man. But now he's getting old and he's scared. Your father always wanted you to see him as human. But he doesn't want you to see him scared."
Myron kept his head down. There are certain things you cannot picture your parents doing -- having sex being the classic example. Most people cannot -- probably should not even try to -- picture their parents in flagrante delicto. But right now Myron was trying to conjure up another taboo image, one of his father sitting alone in the dark, hand on his chest, scared, and the sight, while achievable, was aching, unbearable. When he spoke again, his voice was thick. "So what should I do?"
Table of Contents
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An Interview with Harlan Coben
Myron Bolitar, Harlan Coben's nutty sports agent/reluctant gumshoe extraordinaire, reunites with his eclectic group of friends for Darkest Fear, a funny, shocking, hair-raising addition to Coben's acclaimed mystery series. At the start of this one, Myron's in a bit of a slump: His dad's ill, his childhood home's up for sale, and his company's broke. Oh yeah, there's also this mess with his ex-girlfriend and his cancer-ridden son (Son! Yeah, Myron was surprised too!) whose only donor-match has suspiciously vanished. Barnes & Noble.com mystery editor Andrew LeCount tossed a few questions Harlan's way regarding bone-marrow cancer, plagiarism in journalism, and whether or not he himself is a lover of that great American pastime: F.L.O.W. (Fabulous Ladies of Wrestling). Here's what he had to say.
B&N.com: Myron's got his hands pretty full in Darkest Fear. For the benefit of those unfamiliar with your new novel, what is he -- along with Win, Esperanza, and Co. -- up against?
Harlan Coben: Darkest Fear is a suspense thriller about fathers and sons. Right away, Myron is hit with a double whammy. His college sweetheart tells him that her 13-year-old son Jeremy will die without a bone-marrow transplant and that the donor has vanished. And then, before Myron can digest this news, she hits him with a bigger surprise: Jeremy is actually Myron's son.
B&N.com: Tell us a bit about Myron Bolitar. Who is this guy?
Harlan Coben: Myron is a big-hearted, wisecracking sports agent/sleuth who loves his family and friends and can't stay out of trouble. Like most of us, he tries his best but he messes up. He's hopelessly confused in affairs of the heart. He's vulnerable yet courageous.
B&N.com: What is your darkest fear?
HC: That no one will read the book. Drum roll. Thank you, I'm here all week.
B&N.com: There's a lot of "dark" in Darkest Fear. Seems even Myron has a dark side. I mean, I know this fatherhood thing can be stressful, but he beat that lawyer silly. How do you think Myron handled the situation?
HC: Not well -- but realistically. We all have breaking points. Fiction should be about the unsafe, the edges, the foul lines. I love to play there.
B&N.com: There's a lot of "dark" in Darkest Fear, but there's a lot of laughs too. Like Myron, do you believe laughter is a good -- if not the best -- medicine?
HC: I'm not sure Myron believes that. He uses humor as a defense mechanism, too. When he gets nervous, he has a tendency to wisecrack. That's where most of the humor comes from -- that, and people. Let's face it. People are dang funny.
B&N.com: Bone-marrow cancer plays a large roll in Darkest Fear. I was horrified to learn how insanely difficult it is for those inflicted to find a matching donor. What can your average Joe do to help?
HC: Please call 1-800-MARROW2. All you have to do is give a little blood -- less than you would for a blood donation -- and you can save a life. Amazing when you think about it.
B&N.com: Darkest Fear touches on another shocking issue: corruption in journalism -- plagiarism, made-up sources, made-up dialogue, even made-up conversations. Any idea how rampant a problem this is in the real world?
HC: My sources -- excellent reporters at top-notch media venues -- tell me that it's definitely out there and that it gets worse. Like every other business, reporting is competitive. People often cheat to get an advantage.
B&N.com: Think Myron will ever tie the knot? How about Win? Do you get many fan letters pleading for a Myron/Esperanza romance? Or are folks happy with Terese?
HC: It's a funny thing. I plan my endings and work very hard on my plots. But as for what happens in Myron's personal life...well, that's a pretty organic process. Will he stay with Terese? Will he and Win always be friends? Will Esperanza work out as Myron's business partner? I don't know. But I look forward to finding out.
B&N.com: Darkest Fear combines suspense and humor with insight into father-son relationships. At this stage in his life, Myron's on both sides of the coin -- he's a father (sort of) and a son. Do you think Myron will make a good father?
HC: Yes. But we'll have to see. I don't want to give away much, but Esperanza offers wonderful insight into this situation late in the book. I'll let the reader find out where.
B&N.com: Two of your female characters, Esperanza and Big Cyndi, are former professional wrestlers. Be honest now: Are you a fan of F.L.O.W. (Fabulous Ladies of Wrestling)?
HC: Uh, no. But I love these two characters. They are warm and funny and real and oh-so-dear to me. I'm glad people react so strongly to them.
B&N.com: What's up next for Mr. Bolitar? Ever think of writing a non-Myron Bolitar novel?
HC: Actually, the next novel, Big Tears Fall, is not a Myron book. It will be out in Summer 2001.
B&N.com: Looking forward to it. Harlan, thanks so much for answering our questions today. Best of luck with Darkest Fear!
HC: Thanks, dude. You go, boy!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have read just about every Harlan Coben novel, my favorites being his Myron Bolitar series. This is one of that series and probably the best one so far. Myron's character is so likeable, so humourous and so engaging that someone out there should really make a movie about him. Other characters in the series have distinct personalities: Win, the over-the-top violence-prone protector of Myron; Esperanza, the former sex-kitten with the heart of gold; Big Cindi, a female wrestler friend of Esperanza whose vulnerability is buried underneath extra tonnage, and even Myron's parents, each uniquely flawed but caring and wise. This time around, Myron discovers that he has a son he didn't know about- who is desperately in need of a bone marrow transplant from a donor whose identity remains elusive. Myron must face the agony of paternal worry for the first time and figure out the connection between the donor and a serial killer. This is a real page turner that you surely will enjoy!
DARKEST FEAR by Harlan Coben is not only the newest ¿Myron Bolitar¿ novel, but also the first in the series that I¿ve read. I got hooked on Mr. Coben¿s writing when I read his newest hardcover, TELL NO ONE, which knocked me right out of my little white bobby socks. It was so good that I decided to go back and read his previous novels, all of which center around ex-basketball player, now sports agent and sometimes private detective, Myron Bolitar. Since I tend to start backwards when beginning a new series, I naturally picked DARKEST FEAR to read first. So, go figure. Anyway, in this novel Myron discovers that he¿s a father. It seems that on the night before his ex-girlfriend, Emily Browning, was to marry his college basketball rival, he and she did the two-bear mambo (uh, sorry, Joe!), and the son she produced was a product of his genes, rather than that of her new husband¿s. Though a little shocked and surprised, Myron finds that he can deal with it. The problem, however, is that Emily¿s son, Jeremy, is slowly dying from a disease called Fanconi anemia and desperately needs a bone marrow transplant to live. A donor, who was a perfect match for the transplant was found, but then suddenly disappeared. Emily wants Myron to track down the missing donor. Enlisting the aid of his closest buddy, Windsor Horne Lockwood (¿Win¿ for short), plus long-time friends Esperanza Diaz, Big Cyndi, and Zorra, Myron begins the hunt for the man who could save his son¿s life. What should be a relative breeze in the park for this gang of amateur sleuths turns into something deadly serious when the ¿Sow the Seeds¿ serial killer comes out of hiding to warn Myron off. Exactly what a serial killer has to do with a bone marrow donor is a question Myron intends on answering. If that isn¿t enough, he¿s also being stonewalled by the Lex family (billionaires who guard their privacy with extreme measures) and warned to desist in his attempt to locate a missing family member. Myron certainly has his work cut out for him, but with Jeremy¿s life hanging in the balance, he¿s not about to let anybody get in his way or prevent him from finding the donor. He¿ll do whatever it takes to save his son. I have to admit that DARKEST FEAR really surprised me. I wasn¿t the least bit sure that I¿d enjoy it. Instead, I found myself hooked in the first chapter or two, curious as to where the story was leading, enjoying the character of Myron Bolitar, along with his wild bunch of cohorts. Mr. Coben kept me guessing right up till the end with his meandering twists and turns¿first going in one direction, then switching gears and heading in an entirely different direction. I have to say that the character of Win came pretty close to stealing the show. He¿s definitely someone I want to find out more about. Maybe it has to do with his martial arts ability, or possibly his inability to take anything seriously. Whatever it is, I¿m drawn to this rather unusual character. I¿m also happy to say that sports has very little to do with the story. If your lack of interest in sports has been the only thing holding you back from reading a ¿Myron Bolitar¿ novel, then forget about it and pick up this book or one of the others in the series. The writing is excellent, the plot holds you in its vice-like grip till the last page, and the characters are some of the most unusual ones that I¿ve ever encountered in the ¿mystery¿ genre. I¿m already trying to decide whether to read THE FINAL DETAIL or ONE FALSE MOVE next.
We once again follow Myron and Win on another roller coaster ride as Myron tries to save the life of the son he didn't know he had, while trying to stop a serial murderer. Keeps you turning the pages, to see what happens next. A great ride.
Another excellent mix of thriller and humour carefully crafted to keep you on the edge of your seat
Thoroughly enjoyed this Bolitar book - one of my favourites, I think. The usual well-crafted, convoluted plot that we've come to expect from Harlan Coben. You either love 'em or you don't. I love 'em!
Another great Myron Bolitar novel byHarlan Coben. I enjoy all Coben's novels but this was one of his beat! Myron finds out he has a son and is sick and needs a bone marrow transplant This book has all sorts of twists and turns and I couldnt put it down.
This is the 7th in the series of Myron Bolitar books. The amazing thing about this series is you can pick up almost any of them and not feel tremendously lost. Coben writes character extremely well, and it is very easy to "see" these people in the mind's eye.I really like that Myron is sort of an unlikely hero. Someone with potential whose dreams were nipped in the bud. Someone for whom things do not always work out.This story takes things in several new directions and makes for a very satisfying read.
7th in the Myron Bolitar series.Coben continues in this installment to deal with more serious issues other than a witty approach to the mystery genre. Aging parents¿particularly his increasingly fragile father¿and the sale of the only home he has ever known have sobered Bolitar.Then lightning strikes in the form of his former lover Emily Downing and, we discovered in the last book, the mother of his 13 year old son. Jeremy is dying and needs a bone marrow transplant. But the one potential donor that has been located so far has vanished¿and there is not much time left for Jeremy. Myron and Win start a frantic search for the missing donor¿having no idea that on the way they would uncover the traces of a serial murderer who may still be at large. The plot is excellent and has enough twists and turns to satisfy. Coben¿s writing is up to his usual standard, with a different take on the serial killer genre. The FBI makes an unflattering appearance. The hallmark wit is still there, and Win is still the same lovable sociopath, but this book, like recent ones, is more subdued, grimmer, as Coben continues to explore the personal impact of the mortality of one¿s parents and (worse) children. Highly recommended.
I had to finish it at one go
Read this book for our book club. We found a lot to talk about ranging from character motivation, to parent/child obligations.
I push you again.
I always look forward to Harlan coben's latest book. The story line in darkest fear is good and kept me reading, but I found some of the childish banter from our main character, Myron Bolitar, to be a bit excessive this time. Out there characters can be endearing and fun, but too much sophomoric banter can be distracting.
Another in the Bolitar series that I enjoyed. The twists and turns he throws into his novels are fantastic!