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Fool Me Once

Review

Fool Me Once

FOOL ME ONCE is quite a book. Just when you think that Harlan Coben may have lost his touch, he turns things around and upside down, demonstrating not only that he still has it but that he never lost it. Fool me once, indeed. It is aptly named and a heck of a book, quite possibly one of his best.

You can add FOOL ME ONCE to the list of Coben’s stand-alone works. It features one of his more unique characters in the form of Maya Stern, a former special-ops pilot who saw combat duty overseas. It was not a good period in Maya’s life. While on duty, she received the news from her husband, Joe --- the scion of an extremely wealthy and influential New York family --- that her sister had been horribly murdered. That, and her actions during a subsequent combat mission, changed Maya for good. Her military career in tatters, she returned stateside, took a job as a flight instructor, and had a daughter with her husband. As is demonstrated early on, however, violent death seems to follow Maya very closely.

"Throw in a whole potful of interesting characters --- some important, others red herrings --- and you have a thriller that ultimately will leave you stunned.... You’ll read the last few pages over again just to make sure you didn’t misread them."

The story opens with a funeral, this one for Joe, who was brutally murdered, execution-style, while meeting Maya in Central Park. Not long after the burial, a nanny cam that Maya had installed in her home shows an all-but-impossible video, in which Maya’s supposedly dead husband is playing happily with their daughter. Maya’s nanny accuses Maya of losing her mind. Then the police come to Maya with another mystery: ballistics demonstrate that the gun used to kill Maya’s sister four months before is the same weapon that killed Joe. Someone, it seems, has it out for Maya, who begins her own investigation.

As it develops, Maya was hopefully a better combat pilot than a detective. The book seems to drag just a bit here and there as Maya pursues a number of false leads, even as a suspicious police detective assigned to Joe’s murder and a successful but potentially shady private investigator come into the mix. Maya receives some unexpected help from a former adversary who may not have switched sides entirely. That aside, it seems as if things are going nowhere, until, at story’s end, a startling revelation and an even more unexpected event takes place...and everything that has gone before suddenly makes sense.

Coben plays fair in FOOL ME ONCE. Yes, he leads the reader astray. But, if one reads carefully, he offers words of advice and warning from various corners of the narrative in the form of quotations that you and yours have seen maybe once or twice while perusing the classics. And, of course, there is more to the novel than a tantalizing mystery. The story is built on the premise that everyone has a past, and that it is often worth knowing what that past is before becoming involved with someone to any great extent. Throw in a whole potful of interesting characters --- some important, others red herrings --- and you have a thriller that ultimately will leave you stunned. Just stick with it. You’ll read the last few pages over again just to make sure you didn’t misread them.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 25, 2016

Fool Me Once
by Harlan Coben

  • Publication Date: August 9, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton
  • ISBN-10: 110198435X
  • ISBN-13: 9781101984352