It was Ed Gorman who turned me on to the writings of Andrew Coburn. I forget which book he suggested. Must have been at least six years ago. It’s easier to remember what I did when I was thirteen than six years ago. But whatever the book—I’m guessing it was Voices in the Dark–I read it, loved it, and tracked down a few more.
Ed put me in touch with the Coburns, and I helped broker a deal to get some of the Coburn books available as ebooks through Prologue Books. Coburn had a collection of stories he had put together, and he was trying to find a home for that as well. Prologue was interested, but they pulled the plug on issuing any more new titles before they got around to publishing it. So I jumped in and offered Stark House. The folks at Prologue graciously agreed to cancel their contract, and so began Stark House’s new publishing arrangement with Andrew Coburn.
We published Spouses & Other Crimes in September 2014, and one year later (October 2015), we will be reprinting Coburn’s second novel, The Babysitter. This is a brilliant novel about the killing of a babysitter and the kidnapping of a young child, and the series of events this crime creates. Nothing is obvious in Coburn’s novels, and the initial crime leads the reader on quite a trail. We start with the grief-stricken parents, holding on to the hope that their daughter is somehow still alive. Then we move to the investigating sheriff, an older man who is so caught up in their plight that he takes the case on as a personal mission. Two arrogant FBI agents become involved, and they start following a professor at the university where the father of the child works, who may or may not have been involved with the babysitter.
The parents of the child conduct their own search and follow the trail to a Boston coffee shop run by a retired Mobster. Meanwhile, a man and wife who have lost touch with reality enter the picture, with a connection to the past. All these strands weave around and intersect in short scenes that offer new, intriguing pieces of the puzzle.
I’m not going to say any more about the plot of The Babysitter. I hate reviews where the writer reveals half the story. That should be the reader’s pleasure. Let’s just say, this is a great page-turner, and a welcome return to print of one of Coburn’s wonderful early novels. Before he wrote “The Sweetheart Trilogy”—Sweetheart, Love Nest and Goldilocks, which he is best known for—Coburn wrote five stand-alone novels. I would have been proud to reprint any one of them, but for some reason, I really connected to The Babysitter.
But, honestly, I’ve loved them all. Coburn writes like a master chef, gradually peeling back the layers, mixing subtle spices of dialogue, occasionally bringing to a slow boil, all the while revealing textures and tastes of the human experience that sometimes startle with their unexpected juxtapositions. He builds his characters slowly, letting them speak for themselves in those subtly self-destructive ways we can all relate to.
If you’ve never read Andrew Coburn’s crime novels, you owe it to yourself. Ed Gorman has been championing him for years. Coburn’s books are like special treasures that you want to share with the world. I’m just glad we could make one of these treasures available again.