By Karina Verlan
It isn’t hard to see why Fool Me Once has secured top ratings: Harlan Coben’s suspenseful novel is spiced with crime, money and power, classified report leaks, a top US soldier and a marriage that reveals that there is more beneath the surface. The topics of this thriller are commonplace in our daily headlines, but the story has turning points that even the best sleuth couldn’t predict. In fact, a winding, twisted plot is the art of many of Coben’s top-selling books.
The book begins with Maya, the newly widowed, ex-special ops pilot who is at her husband’s funeral. She is an easy character to get close to, because she is not trying to be one: the story we are just beginning starts with a painful memory that she is trying to forget. The murder of her husband, which she witnesses, is deemed a freak accident – an unwelcome robbery of a loved businessman and father, Joe Buckett.
Surprisingly, this is only the start of a whirlwind of events. The real journey begins in a most unusual way, when Maya spots her late husband on their nanny cam… after the funeral. We become entangled in a web of deceit and mystery along with unknowing Maya, a literal ride-along discovering the secrets of her marriage she was never aware of, right by her side.
Along the way there are many pieces to the story that link all of the complications together: Maya is a prematurely retired pilot, owing to a scandal involving a leaked video. Joe Buckett is from a classic wealthy family, riddled with secrets.
While the scandal and the old family name don’t mix well, Maya doesn’t realize how estranged she’s become from her wealthy relatives until she begins to question if her husband’s murder was an accident, after all.
Once she begins to delve into secrets of the Buckett family, Maya discovers answers for why her husband was murdered, and even more surprisingly, how this is connected to the deaths of her sister and Joe’s older brother.
While Coben’s work is a riveting, stay-on-the-edge of your seat thriller, I have to admit it takes a little while to slide down to the edge. The story jumps into the first plot-twist as early as the first chapter, but until those twists begin to jerk your assumptions right out of your head later on, it’s hard to feel invested.
The writing is simple and easy to flip through quickly, once your pulse speeds up with the plot, but until then, I found myself skimming through the description parts where Coben was aridly trying to paint the scene. So, if you’re in the mood for literal allure and not much else, Fool Me Once may not rank too high on your list.