Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben

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Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Lesley Mason
Reviewed by Lesley Mason
Summary: Classic Coben: a plot-driven thriller with characters to care about as a just-about-honourably discharged Army pilot tries to find out who murdered her husband in front of her and whether or not there is any connection to the murder of her sister a couple of years previously. Sharp, readable, and definitely believable.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: June 2016
Publisher: Arrow
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781784751111

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Joe was buried quickly. Only three days after his murder. For those of us who regularly watch the crime shows or even read the papers that might seem like indecent haste. His widow Maya isn't thinking like that, though. Through the service she's thinking about all sorts of other things. She's bringing her training to bear. Distraction. Get through this bit and then deal with what needs to be done.

And Maya has been well-trained. She was an army captain. A helicopter pilot.

She also happened to marry into one of the richest families on the block – that was a whole different scale of conflict right there.

Oh, yes, and she'd dealt with being on the receiving end of murder as well. Only a few years previously, her sister had been killed. She had an alibi for that one, being verifiably on active duty overseas at the time, but this time she was home. Not just home, she met her husband, at night, in a secluded area of Central Park, where he was gunned down. A robbery gone wrong was the official version. She had run, scared for her life, but covered in his blood… but of course she had to be a suspect.

The police clearly think so.

But Maya isn't a normal civilian. She's trained to deal with stress. And she has friends in the right places. In the police, in and out of the army. People who understand her more than any of her in-law family ever will.

She is close to her sister's children, though has little time for her (late? Ex? Former?) brother-in-law who is not coping well with single-father-hood. She also has a toddler daughter of her own to protect.

The family side of the story gives her every motive to want to find the truth, and none to have committed one, let alone two, murders.

Only there is also a dark side to Maya. She has flashbacks, to a mission in which a number of civilians were killed: a mission whose details went viral over the internet and ended her military career.

Thus the scene is set. An unsolved murder and another killing so close to home. A suspect seeking not so much to prove her own innocence as find the truth…

This is classic Coben. Some writers settle into a groove of series characters and long-haul back-stories; others write gripping one-offs; Coben has the gift of both. This is a stand-alone story, that will have you twisting and turning certain more than once that you have the whole of it… and even when you do it will hold one last surprise in store.

The writing is clean. Pared back to the bone. If you flick idly through the pages, you'll spot what you don't necessarily pick up when reading, which is just how much of it is purely dialogue. I would be tempted to say that he might have missed his metier as a screen-writer, if it wasn't for his wonderful wielding of a nicely placed metaphor. Talking about Maya's visit to a strip club he offers us this: Two women danced on stage with the enthusiasm of middle-schoolers waking up for a math test. They couldn't have looked more bored without prescribed sedation. Forget your morals. This was Maya's real problem with clubs like this. They had all the eroticism of a stool sample.

The pace is not breathless. It is measured. It allows time for family stuff to creep in around the criminality. Nothing mawkish, but enough to make the casual reader realise that these could be real people, and make us care.

Suspension of disbelief? Actually, not so much. Maya is obviously a bit larger than life, and some of her friends maybe a bit smaller, but there's lots in here that is scarily real: big pharma, old money, whistle-blowing websites, military cockups, police corruption and/or ineptitude, mentally unstable vets, psychological support and its darker side, secret (and not-secret) surveillance…what's not to believe.

Insanely readable is how the Sunday Mirror described it. To that I'd just add utterly plausible.

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Buy Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben at


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