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.
Harlan Coben’s novels rely on a specific formula, and his latest release, Fool Me Once, follows the same familiar pattern. If armed with that knowledge before turning to the first page, the reader is presented with an engaging read with clever, if predictable, plot twists.
The action in Coben’s new novel is slower to unfold than in his prior stories, with much introspection and conversing between the characters. However, the weakness of the story lies not in the plot but in the characterizations. The protagonist, Maya, is a cardboard caricature of a woman whose actions and thoughts come across as forced, aloof, and unnatural. Coben frequently tells the reader how Maya feels about something, but her actions never reflect what Coben proclaims. Coben also interjects himself into the story regarding Maya’s collection of guns and penchant for shooting. The apologist tone of Maya’s explanations for being a gun owner was out of character and was clearly Coben inserting himself into the tale to justify this aspect of the protagonist. The story would have been better served without the obvious interjection of political correctness.
The plot was tightly woven, and the ending was a departure from Coben’s usual formula. As a whole, Fool Me Once was an enjoyable thriller to add to the Harlan Coben shelf even though it falls short of his usual mark.