Tell No One by Harlan Coben
|Tell No One by Harlan Coben
|Category: General Fiction
|Reviewer: Kerry King
|Summary: Dr. David Beck and his wife, Elizabeth, make a ritual pilgrimage, every year, to the secluded Lake Charmaine, a place that has been part of their lives since they were children. But on their thirteenth visit, Elizabeth is kidnapped and David is left for dead. Unlucky thirteen?
|Date: May 2009
I've been meaning to get around to reading some or all of Harlan Coben's work, because if the reviews are to be believed and you are a fan of the 'Bloody Knife /Blunt Instrument' thriller, the man is quite simply not capable of turning out a duff novel. But you know how it is, what with one thing and another and a bulging pile of books to be read and reviewed, I just somehow hadn't managed to give him my full attention. Until now.
To say that I can't believe I waited this long and that I could kick myself for missing out would be to state it too plainly to you because Harlan Coben has just shot straight into the top three of my top ten favourite authors of the genre. And I am picky about these things!
By way of background, Tell No One, from what I understand, was actually Coben's first standalone novel as his prior offerings formed part or parts of the massively successful Myron Bolitar series. Initially released sometime in 2001 and now (thankfully, or I might still have Coben on my 'to be read' list) re-released because a small but prestigious film company (French, I think) has made a movie version of the book (it would appear Coben also had quite a hand in the production, writing the screenplay and parts of the script) the tale opens upon the blissfully happily married couple that is Dr David and Elizabeth Beck, as they visit a secluded lakeside retreat to conduct the annual ritual of celebrating their first kiss some thirteen years earlier. Their life is immediately shattered when, before you can say pucker up, buttercup, Elizabeth is dragged off and bundled into a car and Beck is savagely attacked and left for dead.
Fast-forward eight years and with Elizabeth sadly no more, her murderer - a serial killer no less - sitting on death row for a string of similar attacks on women, we find Beck practicing medicine for the charitable organisation, MedicAid in a fairly insalubrious part of town. Appearances suggest Beck is doing just fine, but on the inside, he is a shadow of his former self; a hollow man.
A seemingly innocuous but 'sender unknown' email then arrives in Beck's inbox, entitled Tell No One. Naturally cautious but irresistibly curious, Beck clicks on the attached weblink, taking him to an image that shocks him to the core. It is his beloved Elizabeth and she looks very much alive and well, if a little older. Eight years older to be precise. Can Beck allow himself a glimmer of hope that somehow this could be true? Could it just be a practical joke? And if it is a joke, who in the world would think that tearing open old wounds could ever be funny?
Without any further preamble, Beck is hurled into the depths of a dangerous mystery in which he cannot begin to know who to trust. He is now both hunter and hunted. Then things get ugly. And that's where the fun starts!
I'm almost annoyed that no-one told me what an utterly fantastic and amazingly talented writer Harlan Coben is. I mean, I know it all boils down to taste, but I have read so many mediocre thriller novels that I feel a bit cheated! Harlan Coben, just where have you been all my life?
Tell No One dishes up torsional drama from the first page and then latterly, with the initial murder out of the way and with the scene carefully set for the calm before the storm, Coben goes about introducing us to an eclectic procession of goodies and baddies. His protagonist, Beck, is immensely likeable. Ditto his best friend, Shauna and his goody-twice-shod sister, Linda. As such, these characters stand as a wonderful, even contrast to the motley crew of miscreants and maladjusts and we can rest assured that said malefactors each possess a unique talent that will guarantee the reader a jolt of pure pandemonium from the get-go. Even the Feds (and there had to be a couple of Feds) don't disappoint as Coben describes them as taking Beck by surprise in their total replication of their fictional television counterparts; I find this a delicious writing trait as it makes a character so easy to imagine and an almost guilty, lazy pleasure for the reader to mentally flesh out the story that is now going on in their heads.
Anyway, in spite of the rip-roaring pace of the tale Coben somehow manages to maintain momentum whilst swapping from first person to third person. As a strategem, using Beck in the first person attaches you to him more emotionally, which is fundamental to his nice-guy persona. Coupled with the smooth transition out to third person, we can clearly see Coben's talent as a writer - to do that without creating even a teaspoon of underlying confusion, is in no small way challenging.
In summary, as I have raved on for quite long enough, Tell No One is simply an awesome read. I loved it and could not put it down and found myself staying up far later than is strictly advisable, necessary or healthy to reach the final page, which - by the way - has the most gobsmacking final pike and tuck in the story that caught me completely off-guard. I must recommend Tell No One to you in spades and if you have not read it already, go out and buy it today.
I'm not sure I want Harlan Coben to rub shoulders on my mental bookshelf with anyone that is not worthy so I am selecting my recommendations to you with caution. Tell No One is indeed a twining tale and with that in mind, perhaps you should take a look at Ravens by George Dawes Green and similarly, the hardhitting but somehow very lovely Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn which in fact received very high praise from Coben himself. Along the same lines, you might also enjoy The Deceived by Brett Battles which whilst not quite as gripping, is certainly worth a peek.
Tell No One by Harlan Coben is in the Bookbag's Christmas Gift Recommendations 2009.
You can read more book reviews or buy Tell No One by Harlan Coben at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Tell No One by Harlan Coben at Amazon.com.
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