ourteen of author Harlan Coben’s 31 novels, we are told, are due to be adapted for Netflix. Your mileage may vary, of course, but as I have a barely satiable appetite for bingeable thrillers, I see this as more promise than threat.
Last year we had The Stranger, an adaptation of Coben’s 2015 bestseller, which leapt from cliffhanger to cliffhanger to tell the increasingly baroque-slash-demented tale of a husband (Richard Armitage) who discovers from a mysterious stranger that his wife faked her pregnancy and miscarriage before she disappeared. Dum-dum-DAH.
Another is now here and Stay Close promises more of almost exactly the same – including Richard Armitage, who is now seedy photographer Ray and, by the end of the opening episode, about to become firmly tied into the main plot. This centres on Megan (Cush Jumbo), whose idyllic life, loving family and perfect kitchen are evidence that she is the keeper of a Secret Past that will soon rear its ugly head and threaten everything she holds dear.
And so it proves. Carlton Flynn, a young man in a distinctive necklace, goes missing from about the same place as another man, Stewart Green, did 17 years ago to the day. The latter is the only case Detective Broome (James Nesbitt) has ever failed to solve. He assuaged the pain by sleeping with Stewart’s mum, which may or may not become relevant later (though I feel it’s only fair to point out that in Cobenworld, most things do)..
Megan gets home after a night out to find a card on her doorstep addressed to “Cassie”. Her old name! But how?! “Everybody’s findable these days,” the card sender tells her when they meet, which is apparently explanation enough. But who?! It’s Lorraine (Sarah Parish), one of the people left behind when Cassie fled her old life. But why?! Lorraine wants to warn her that Stewart, apparently the reason Cassie wished to flee said old life, is back. But he can’t be, gasps our heroine – “He’s dead!”
It’s possible her certainty has something to do with the flashbacks she keeps having to a slashed and bloody presumed-corpse. Before she departs, Lorraine – who, by the way, works at the Vipers club where Carlton was last seen – gives her pal the plastic engagement ring pledged by a man whose heart she broke by leaving.
Who could this be? Apropos of nothing, we turn to Ray again. He is mugged for his camera. But he has already uploaded his latest pictures to the cloud. He turns out to have inadvertently captured images of what might be Carlton’s final moments in the local woods (through which, if the flashbacks are anything to go by, Cassie herself fled). While he thinks about what that might mean, he flicks through some old photo albums. They are full of pictures of him with Cassie. But wait! There is still time for one last scene – of Megan’s oldest daughter lying on her bed and toying with a pendant round her neck. You’ll never guess whose it is. Dum-dum-DAH! See you for the next episode, plus the six after that – and there’s no point pretending otherwise.