Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Crime pays for US author Coben, our top library choice

Harlan Coben
Harlan Coben
Miracle Cure, Harlan Coben
Miracle Cure, Harlan Coben

Who's the most read author in Northern Ireland? It's not JK Rowling, Dan Brown or EL James.

It's Harlan Coben, a US crime writer. Demand for his novels far outstrips supply in our libraries.

He might not be a household name, but Miracle Cure – Coben's second novel – topped a list of most borrowed books in 2011/12.

Data compiled by the PLR (Public Lending Right) – released ahead of today's National Libraries Day – puts Coben top of a list of the 10 most popular library books.

US crime fiction and thrillers dominate the list, with eight of the top 10 most borrowed books belonging to the genre.

US writer James Patterson – who came in second in Northern Ireland with Now You See Her –was the most borrowed author in UK libraries for the sixth year.

Minding Frankie, by the late Irish writer Maeve Binchy, also made it into the top 10.

Coben features twice among Northern Ireland's favourites, with his 2011 novel Live Wire at seven.

But why is he so popular?

Brian McGilloway, a crime author who has released six novels based in his native Lifford in Donegal, is a fan.

"I think they are very, very readable, that's the attraction," he said. "Coben had a series of crime novels featuring the detective Myron Bolitar.

"He wants good people to get justice. He has a sense of moral duty.

"In real life, clearance rates for murder are minuscule but in crime novels they are very high. So crime writing is cathartic."

The crime-heavy top 10 list came as no surprise to David Torrens, who runs specialist bookshop No Alibis in Belfast.

"Harlan Coben, as a novelist, is a good thriller writer," David said. "We brought him to Belfast for a summer event at the Ulster Museum, as he is very popular."

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