Review: Tell No One by Harlan Coben

Title: Tell No One

Author: Harlan Coben

Publisher: Orion Books [originally 2000, this edition 2007]

ISBN: 978-1-4091-1702-5

Length: 346 pages

Genre: Thriller

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

My rating: 3.5/5

One-liner: A frenetically paced, superbly plotted yarn.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Eight years ago David Beck and his wife Elizabeth took their annual trip to the remote place where they had shared their first kiss. That night Beck was beaten and his wife kidnapped. She was found dead several days later, apparently the victim of a serial killer. Beck has since put some semblance of a life back together but it quickly unravels when he starts to receive messages that appear to be from his supposedly dead wife at the same time as two bodies are found in the spot where Elizabeth was kidnapped from. As Beck tries to determine if his wife might be alive after all, the authorities become convinced it was Beck not the serial killer who was responsible for her death and some nefarious characters who seem to know what really happened eight years ago take whatever action is necessary to ensure no one else finds out the truth.

I know it’s an over-used phrase but this book was, for me, a genuine page turner. Sure there are coincidences and plot contrivances to be found but I still read the book as quickly as I physically could, sneaking a few pages whenever I had a spare moment. The original premise hooked me immediately and the story, although far-fetched, sustained its internal logic throughout. There were multiple switches in point of view from first person (Beck’s) to third (virtually everyone else’s at one point or another) which helped give the frantic sense that lots of action was taking place simultaneously.

While the yarn was enjoyable unfortunately the characters were a little too predictable and trite for me to really connect with. Beck is so full of wholesome goodness (he’s a white doctor in a ghetto neighbourhood who never judges anyone not even the pregnant 12-year olds and is still in love with his dead high school sweetheart and is even kind to puppy dogs….) that if I met him in real life I’d want to beat him myself. Almost all of the rest of the characters are stereotypes too: the drug dealer with a heart of gold who helps Beck to go on the run and the evil generic Asian who has seen too much and can kill a man with his bare hands and so on. About the only character who I was really interested in as a person rather than a plot device was Beck’s best friend Shauna the plus size model who “stalks into a room as though it offends her”.

However, in a thriller more than almost any other genre plot is king and I can’t go past the fact that the book kept me interested from the first page to the last.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

For some quite unfathomable reason I’ve never read any of Coben’s other books but based on the writing here I’m keen to try more so if you have a favourite Harlan Coben book or can tell me whether or not I need to start at the beginning of his Myron Bolitar series let me know in the comments below.

This book was supplied to me free by the First Reads program at goodreads.com (how a book that’s been available since 2000 qualifies as ‘first read’ has me baffled but I’m grateful for the book anyway).

Tell No One has been reviewed at Jen’s Book Thoughts and You’ve Gotta Read This,

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6 Responses to Review: Tell No One by Harlan Coben

  1. Beth F says:

    I have the audio of this — I know it won a bunch of awards, which is why I bought it. Thanks to your review, I will make a bigger effort to actually read t he book! (Well, listen to it)

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  2. Bernadette – Thanks for your thorough review. I agree absolutely that characters are a lot more interesting and memorable if they don’t fit neatly into stereotpyes. Still, all in all, this one sounds like it’s got an intriguing plot! Time to add it to my ever-expanding TBR list.

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  3. Maxine says:

    I loved this book too – I just had to read it all in one go – such tension! The ending was a slight let-down as usual with Coben, but he is just so brilliant at maintaining the excitement at fever pitch (did not like his most recent one very much, though, but you can’t go wrong with most of his books).
    There is a French film of this book which is even better than the book I think – it was released theatrically in the UK and then the US, and is available on DVD in the UK – so I hope you can get hold of a copy. It keeps the same plot but reworks a few elements. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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  4. Maxine says:

    Ooops, sorry, did not answer your specific question. The first 4 Myron Bolitar books are rather good, I think – I hate books about sports and so this is saying something. There are some good secondary characters. He then left Myron for a while and concentrated on other stand-alone-ish books (though some of the same characters appear in various books). When he returned to Myron quite recently, I think these are not as good – somewhat formulaic. The sidekick (Winston? some name like that) in particular has become weak and Myron’s constant girlfriend problems overdone.

    All the standalones are very good I think – you just can’t go wrong with any of them. The titles all blur into one so I can’t remember enjoying any of them more than any others – The Innocent and In the Woods were both good but probably I’d say the same about the others if only I could remember their titles!

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  5. Thanks for the tips Maxine. I will look out for the film and see if I can get my hands on the early books in his series.

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