(This is the second in a series looking at the work of Bouchercon 2016 Guests of Honor.)
Reading the standalone novels of Harlan Coben is like placing yourself in front of a firing line, except instead of bullets, you are going to be assaulted with plot twists and trusting any character is likely to lead you down a path to ruin (aka: a binge reading session on a work night). Fool Me Once, the newest novel by Harlan Coben is no different. Proceed at your own risk.
Fool Me Once is the story of former special-ops pilot Maya Stern Burkett. The story opens at the funeral of Maya’s husband Joe, who was killed in front of Maya during a late night mugging gone wrong. When just a few pages later, Maya sees Joe on the current footage from the nanny cam in their home, the plot is off and running.
What follows is a convoluted tale involving other deaths, past indiscretions, and secrets around every corner. Maya is a heroine who is easily relatable without being boring and she is surrounded with a bevy of supporting characters – each providing a different resource for Maya on her quest for the truth.
Make no mistake about it, the focus of this book is most definitely the plot. While the characters are interesting enough to keep readers turning the pages, their primary role is to lead fans down the twisted plot road Harlan Coben is celebrated for. Fans want another story with unexpected developments and impossible to predict endings and that is what this author provides.
Like Linwood Barclay and Jason Starr, Harlan Coben excels at thrillers involving everyday people thrown into circumstances beyond their control. Like those authors, he will sprinkle in contemporary topics such as PTSD and Wikileaks-like websites – in the case of Fool Me Once – but in Harlan Coben’s case this is always at the service of providing a page-turning beach read – pure distraction from the real world.
If readers consume many of Harlan Coben’s books there is certainly a formula at play, but if you can look beyond that, a satisfactory reading experience is guaranteed. These are books designed to be easily gobbled up in as few sittings as possible. Short chapters with cliff-hanger endings compel readers to stick around for one more chapter – over and over again. Fool Me Once never fails to entertain and will surely delight both fans and newcomers.
Love the firing line metaphor!