Title: Tell No One
Author: Harlan Coben
Publisher: Orion Books [originally 2000, this edition 2007]
Length: 346 pages
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
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).