Harlan Coben’s Shelter Review 2023 Tv Show Series Cast Crew Online
There’s a sweetness to this book adaptation – about a high school outsider searching for a missing friend – which recalls 80s teen classics. It’s also a murder-mystery rollercoaster ride It feels odd to call an adaptation of a Harlan Coben thriller “charming”, but the eight-part Shelter series is just that. Netflix acquired crime writer Coben’s big standalone novels in a five-year, multimillion-pound deal for the rights to 14 of his 34 books, and its renewal in 2022 is thought to have included the best-selling Myron Bolitar series, too. But Prime Video has nabbed his young adult series, whose protagonist is Myron’s nephew, Mickey; this is a dramatisation of the first Mickey book.
It has slightly less gore than usual and an even more madly corkscrewing plot. But the charm – reminiscent of early teen fare, such as The Goonies, that the 80s offered while it waited for you to graduate to John Hughes – is still an unexpected bonus.
Jaden Michael (last seen in 2021 as the adolescent NBA star turned activist Colin Kaepernick in TV drama Colin in Black & White) is Mickey. His mixture of quiet confidence and sweetness, even amid his grief after recently losing his father and nearly his mother in a car crash, draws you to him and gives you someone to hang on to as the rollercoaster narrative flings you this way and that.
After the crash, Mickey is living resentfully with his aunt Shira (Constance Zimmer) in his father’s childhood hometown of Kasselton, New Jersey, while he waits for his mother to be released from the facility where she is being treated for depression. (In the books, she has a drug addiction; perhaps this was changed to make things more palatable to a TV audience, which is often more wide-ranging than a literary one.)
On his first day at high school, he befriends Ashley (Samantha Bugliaro), another newcomer. We see her being surreptitiously photographed by a teacher; the following day she goes missing. Soon, a small Scooby-Doo gang assembles around Mickey to help him discover her whereabouts. There is the oddball hacker Spoon (Adrian Greensmith, who gives a lovely performance, although it seems to come from a more comic show) and fellow social outcast Ema (Abby Corrigan, who adds to the evanescent 80s feel by looking like a cross between Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club and Winona Ryder).
But they must also contend with all the other oddities that a thriller set in suburban New Jersey throws up: school bullies; a nasty, borderline-racist local cop; a boy who disappeared 27 years ago on the same date as Ashley vanished; a web of backstories, including one between the bad cop and Mickey’s aunt; and a history teacher who taught Mickey’s father, Brad, and now spends her spare time reading websites about the missing boy. There are also, elsewhere, growing sapphic vibes.
Oh, and let us not forget the huge gothic mansion in which Brad once got trapped, after which he “was never quite the same”. It is inhabited by a feared crone known as the Bat Lady (Tovah Feldshuh). It has a gravestone in the garden for “ES, a childhood lost for children” and on Mickey’s first meeting with the Bat Lady she knows his name and tells him his father is still alive.
Is she mad, or a hallucination created by our yearning hero? Is she at the heart of what seems to be an expanding plethora of mysteries? Are they merely the visible tips of a giant mystery iceberg beneath the suburban surface?
Mickey keeps hearing, in inexplicable places, the song that was playing just before the car crash, adding to the hallucinatory feel. There is a recurring butterfly motif, tattoos that should fade but don’t, a gun in Ashley’s bag, a thick strewing of more subtle clues that are nevertheless clearly clues (Polaroids, baseball caps, locker magnets) and plentiful secrets yet to be told by everyone you meet.
There is also an emerging Holocaust storyline that had better start earning its keep very soon if it doesn’t want to start looking incredibly tasteless. But let us have faith.
It sounds like a lot – and it is. But it is all played with great brio and sufficient confidence to allow you to overlook the occasional misstep, such as Mickey’s very late recollection of his father imparting an exceedingly relevant piece of information relating to his present circumstances. One cannot help but think it would have been the first thing to spring to mind when the mysterious happenings kicked off.
But there is no time to mind. Another twist is always up ahead – and it is a feast for old and young.