Thriller captures bad guys, and the heart

By Becky Gottel

A chair back shoved under the door handle of my first-floor hotel room provided me with the mental security to sleep after reading No Second Chance by Harlan Coben. Admittedly, I am somewhat high-strung before I start reading murder mysteries, but this one happened to spark my imagination.

By infusing his story of murder and kidnapping with a lot of heart and a plot twist in each chapter, Coben provides sufficient tension and drama to make barricading a room seem like a good plan.

No Second Chance follows Marc Seidman’s quest to solve his own attempted murder, the murder of his wife and the kidnapping of his daughter. Unfortunately for Seidman, both the local police and the FBI peg him as the main suspect. They base their case around Seidman’s strained relationship with his wife and his ex-girlfriend’s enlistment as a partner (who also happens to be an ex-FBI agent) in his attempts to deliver a ransom and find his daughter.

Seidman is torn between trusting everyone that comes to his aid and guessing that his closest friends are murderers. The conflicting and colliding personal lives provide the basic tension and claustrophobic panic of the book. This emotional whirlwind is a major strength, limited only by a high number of coincidental relationships that would make Jane Austen proud.

Within the high energy and emotion, there is enough dry humor to keep the book readable enough for IMPE’s poolside. Seidman’s self-awareness makes this an unbeatable and fast read. Seidman knows more about himself than most of us do and he’s not afraid to admit that delusions might just be delusions. In the opening lines of the book, he admitted:

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    “When the first bullet hit my chest, I thought of my daughter.

    “At least, that is what I want to believe. I lost consciousness pretty fast. And, if you want to get technical about it, I don’t even remember being shot.”

    Proving that No Second Chance has depth as well as emotional turmoil, there’s a nice conflict between good and evil resulting in gray indecision rather than any clear answers. Yes, there are traditional bad guys but none of the characters are enshrined in dewy innocence. The end provides resolution but does not bring the world completely back to center.

    No Second Chance provides a heart and a brain to a traditional thriller, taking the reader from Seidman’s delusion and obsession over getting his daughter back to stakeouts and a plethora of guns and unsolved murders.