Friday, 26 February 2016

Book Review: FOOL ME ONCE by Harlan Coben

Fool Me Once

Title: Fool Me Once
Author: Harlan Coben
Publisher: Dutton
Read: February 2016
Expected publication: 22 March 2016

Synopsis (Goodreads):

In the course of eight consecutive #1 New York Times bestsellers, millions of readers have discovered Harlan Coben’s page-turning thrillers, filled with his trademark edge-of-your-seat suspense and gut-wrenching emotion. In Fool Me Once, Coben once again outdoes himself.

Former special ops pilot Maya, home from the war, sees an unthinkable image captured by her nanny cam while she is at work: her two-year-old daughter playing with Maya’s husband, Joe—who had been brutally murdered two weeks earlier. The provocative question at the heart of the mystery: Can you believe everything you see with your own eyes, even when you desperately want to? To find the answer, Maya must finally come to terms with deep secrets and deceit in her own past before she can face the unbelievable truth about her husband—and herself.

My thoughts:

Ex-soldier and helicopter pilot Maya Burkett has had a lot of tragedy in her life – her last tour of Iraq ended in tragedy, her sister was murdered whilst she was overseas, and her husband was shot in front of her eyes in an apparent mugging in Central Park. Every night she has to live with the demons of her PTSD, vivid dreams of haunting images which torture her and keep her awake. Only her 2-year old daughter Lily keeps her grounded, although life as single parent and sole income earner is tough. Maya has never been a stay-at-home mum, so she hires a nanny to look after her daughter whilst she is at work. To make sure Lily is in good hands, Maya installs a “nanny-cam” on advice of a good friend, a hidden camera concealed in a digital photo frame in the living room. She gets the shock of her life when she checks the footage one day to see her dead husband Joe Burkett playing on the sofa with Lily.

Not to give too much away, the incident is a catalyst for Maya to look deeper into her husband’s death, finding links to events of the past deeply shrouded in secrecy and fiercely protected by Joe’s wealthy family. More shockingly, some links seem to lead to her sister, and may ultimately be related to her death. But can Maya trust her own instincts, or are these links figments of her imagination related to her PTSD?

In typical Harlan Coben fashion, the story twists and turns and leaves the reader guessing constantly – just when you think you have worked it out, there is another link in the chain leading off into a completely different direction. Fast-paced and full of suspense, this book will appeal to readers who like to be kept guessing until the very end.

I have been a long-time fan of Coben’s writing and was very excited to receive this preview copy from the publisher. Unfortunately the book did not totally work for me. Whilst I enjoyed the different elements of the plot, I found it hard to engage with the characters, which I do not usually experience with Coben’s novels. Whilst Maya was a tough and strong protagonist, I also found her very remote and difficult to relate to. Her PTSD somehow did not convince me, and I struggled to connect on every level. 2.5 stars from me for that reason.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.