Current reviews
  Reviews by title
  Reviews by author

  Contact Onyx

  Discussion forum


Onyx reviews: No Second Chance by Harlan Coben

Though he's a successful plastic surgeon, life has not always been kind to Dr. Marc Seidman, the hangdog narrator of Harlan Coben's new thriller. He married his girlfriend after she became pregnant but he's not sure he ever really loved her.

Seidman wakes up in a hospital room after twelve days in a coma to discover that an unknown intruder shot both him and his wife. Their six-month-old daughter Tara is missing. He has no idea who would commit such a violent crime against his family. Even though Seidman's wounds should have been fatal, the police and FBI suspect that he had something to do with his wife's death.

Shortly after his release from the hospital, kidnappers make a ransom demand through Seidman's wealthy father-in-law, who puts up the two million dollars in cash. The kidnappers leave no room for negotiation and apply the usual "don't call the cops" condition. If he disobeys, there'll be no second chance. Unsure about how to proceed, Seidman takes the advice of his lawyer friend and tells the agents, who are still investigating him. The kidnappers grab the cash and vanish without returning Tara.

Seidman has friends who know how the system works, including Rachel, an old girlfriend who is a former FBI agent. His search for the truth is hampered by the fact that he's the prime suspect—and the way Coben switches back and forth between first and third person narration leaves that possibility open.

Coben masterfully leads readers through a variety of possible suspects. The perpetrators of the crime had to be familiar with Seidman and his family, but they also seem to have connection to the police.

Seidman never gives up hope that Tara is still alive, so he is vulnerable when the kidnappers call again eighteen months later, offering the previously forbidden second chance. As is typical in Coben's novels, Seidman learns that people close to him—his wife and Rachel, for example—had hidden lives. What he learns makes him reevaluate his own life before the shooting.

He's far from the typical thriller hero, introspective, self-analytical and occasionally whiney, unlikely to be played by Harrison Ford in the motion picture. He's a devoted father above everything else, driven to get his daughter back while continuing to function in his daily life, which includes caring for his ailing parents.

Coben pays more than superficial attention to his characters, which doesn't always happen in thrillers. Among the villains is a former child TV star who claims she is over the celebrity rush of her early years, but brings her past fame up whenever possible. Unexpected helpers enter the story late in the game, including Verne, a redneck with a mail order bride who lends some comic relief and much-needed muscle to Seidman's task.

The biggest problem with Coben's books is their titles, which are so similar and monotonous that his readers won't be able to remember one from the other based on name alone. Tell No One, One False Move, No Second Chance, after a while they all blend together.

Coben produces a number of false-endings in which he seems to wrap up the story only to introduce yet another twist. The payoff is surprising and fresh. The ending isn't tidy and not everyone gets what he or she deserves, including the protagonist.

Web site and all contents © Copyright Bev Vincent 2007. All rights reserved.