This is one of those books where you have to wonder where people get their ideas from. I’ve read far creepier books and far more suspenseful books, but Coben’s way with slowly building up to a crescendo and crashing denouement is superb! I know how cliche it is but when I hear someone say they want to read a page turner this is the type of book I think of. I started this at lunch on Wednesday and finished Thursday afternoon, working two full eight-hour days!
As I said in my response to The Stranger, after receiving an advance copy of this from Dutton*, AND hearing my friends Hayley and Kennedy liked Coben, I bumped these up my list and they were totally worth it. I will most definitely be keeping an eye out for any of his other ridiculous number of novels next time I’m at the used book store or local library sale 😀
I don’t know if this is the case in all of his books, but I loved that around page 170, Coben mentioned an explicit connection from this book to The Stranger, which I just finished the day before. It wasn’t anything you’d need to notice, but I was like HEY I know those people!
Where Coben’s strength really comes through, and it was a lot more visible in this book than in the last, is his character descriptions.
“He was stocky and broad, and his arms seemed too short for his body. He had the kind of face that looked unshaven even immediately after a shave. His bushy eyebrows resembled a late stage of caterpillar metamorphosis, and the hair on the back of his hands could have been the work of a curling iron.” (15)
Although he’s relying on stereotype a bit, you can almost already tell me that this man is a cop who there’s a good chance is a pain-in-the ass because: stereotypes. I don’t know about you, but I immediately thought about any number of TV detectives that fit into this cop/detective/police man stereotype.
Add in that he plays against stereotypes to, choosing his protagonist to be a female army veteran suffering from PTSD who is a newly widowed single mother Coben builds a lot of false senses of knowledge. I’m not sure I would call Maya an unreliable narrator, but she’s not exactly the most reliable either. I liked her gruffness, but also the moments she let her barriers down around her daughter.
Something else that I enjoyed about this book and The Stranger were how up-to-date Coben’s stories are. He’s writing about events that have happened recently, but providing the fictionalized version. A chopper blows up innocent civilians, happened; national secrets are revealed via websites, happened; hacking reveals personal details of extramarital affairs, happened. Coben just takes it a step further and provides one example of an outcome that could potentially happen as a result of these occurrences.
One of the things that really made me smile when I finished this book was being reminded about Coben’s charitable side:
I’m interested in the character-naming charitable donation program. Where can I get more information? For more information write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This was mentioned in the afterword and on his website. I actually knew about this happening, but never made the connection to Coben. At some point I read an article (similar to this one [NorthJersey.com]) about a person’s name appearing in a novel because of a charitable gift and this makes me so happy that there are people that use their individual talents to further support charitable organizations.
If there is a downside to Coben’s books (or any books like this) it would be that they’re formulaic. I don’t read them often enough for it to bother me, but I know if I were to read these back-to-back often enough I would get bored with it. It’s the same with mysteries and romance (some how I don’t get tired of though). It’s just tropes of the genre. This is nothing against Coben or these two books in particular, but the genre. Coben’s style and writing keep me engaged and guessing!
Recommendation: This book kept me engaged from start to finish. When I finished the last page (a distant epilogue), I had a tear in my eye. There was nothing to give away the ending and my suspicions bounced back and forth between any number of characters. I even spent a lot of time creating my own personal spin (imaginary gay love affair resulting in a murder/suicide: check), without any input from the author/text. We read what we want right? I know I’ll read more of Coben when I stumble across them in the future!
Opening Line: “They buried Joe three days after his murder.”
Closing Line: “She’s here. I know it.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher. No goods or money were exchanged in return for my honest opinion.
Additional Quote from Fool Me Once
“Some days, every song seems to be talking directly to you, don’t they? And some days, a lyric may hit too close to home.” (330)