Book Review Murder-Mystery

No Second Chance by Harlan Coben

Book Summary

Shot twice by an unseen assailant, Dr. Marc Seidman lies in a hospital bed. His wife has been killed. His six-month-old daughter has vanished. But just when his world seems forever shattered, the ransom note arrives: We are watching. If you contact the authorities, you will never see your daughter again. There will be no second chance. With no one to trust, and mired in a deepening quicksand of deception and deadly secrets, Marc clings to one unwavering vow: bring home his daughter, at any cost.

NO SECOND CHANCE is my first book by Haraln Coben, and could well be my last. I cannot say I was blown away by the patchy pacing, the cliched characters, or the all-too familiar kidnap scenario, never mind the rather flat ending. The prose didn’t really flow, and there were one too many long-winded paragraphs padding out what action there was.

That action was splintered and broken up by the first-person narrated sections of the MC, Dr. Marc Seidman, and the rest of the characters who seem to just be talking amongst themselves. And I couldn’t really shake the feeling, as I read, that this was an overly long treatment for a made for TV movie of the week.

And, to be honest, the high drama came off as a little ludicrous in places. Never mind the fact that both the FBI and police were presented as utterly inept at their jobs. And that the only one who could solve this whole tawdry mess was the man shot, twice, and left for dead.

The sad thing is, the premise for this one sounded so good. A man wakes in hospital to learn he’s been shot, twice, and his wife is dead, and his only child, kidnapped. This should have been a nail-biting thriller, and roller coaster ride of emotions.

It wasn’t.

Instead, we’re offered every crackpot theory as to what happened and why, and who might have been involved. As I said, it felt like a bad made for TV movie. There’s always 1 or 2 crazed killers, utterly out of touch with reality yet, apparently, still functional enough to mastermind everything from a motel room. Then there’s the rich family who can afford the multi-million dollar ransoms, plus the one wacko family, who’s a weak link.

What’s farcical is the trail of dead bodies in these kind of novels, all justified by including the Bonnie and Clyde pair of sociopaths. And the slim to none existent excuse to justify all this is a little hard to swallow.

I struggled with the credibility factor from beginning to end. But yes, did finish it as I glazed over a lot of the background filler. Even so, I wasn’t overly invested in any one character, and found the whole situation rather unbelievable. And again, the ending was flat and lacklustre, sort of stuttering like a car-wreck that had just run out of gas in the last mile.

Adios Mr. Coben, you’ll be getting no second chance from me.

Harlan Coben
Dutton Books, 2018
Paperback, 384 pages

6 comments on “No Second Chance by Harlan Coben

  1. Avatar

    The synopsis sounded so good though, I’d certainly pick it up. I kind of like that several theories were offered, I find it often better than that they have no ideas at all. I’m sorry to hear it didn’t live up to your expectations. It just happened that I was offered a copy of his new novel WIN today and I said yes.. hopefully with better luck

    • Alex

      Yeah, it sounded really good, sad to say, it didn’t quite live up to the hype though. This is one of 3 books my Sister in Law bought me for my birthday, last year. All by Harlan Coben. So I have at least 2 others to read and see if it was just this one that didn’t click with me, or not.

  2. Avatar

    What a shame! Nothing worse IMO than picking up a tempting thriller and having it fall so flat! I don’t think I’ve ever read any of Coben’s books but I have seen a few TV adaptations, with mixed results. The high drama was definitely an issue for me, I think the last one I watched was ‘The Stranger’ and it started out so good and just kind of unraveled halfway through because there was nothing to support the wild hijinks. Oh well!

    • Alex

      Yeah, it was. Everything about this one should have had the adrenaline pumping and the heart racing. And yes, it started off well, and like you said, petered out from the middle onwards. Where it just became ludicrous. I think that some of these authors, especially like Coben write as if for TV. At least, that’s how it feels.

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