Harlan Coben






Signet, Paperback Reissue May 2004
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood
Detective Thriller
Dr. Marc Seidman wakes up in a hospital to the news that he has been seriously wounded, his wife is dead of gunshot wounds, and his daughter has been missing for twelve days. The ransom note arrives as soon as he is released from the hospital Ė sent not to him but to his rich father-in-law.
Marc arrives home with the two million dollars from his wifeís father, to find police all over the house. His instructions from the kidnappers are strict: he is to wait for their call, follow their instructions for delivering the money, and above all, donít tell the police. If he disobeys, there will be no second chance.
A few bungles and betrayals later, Marc is the favorite suspect of the police and FBI. When he asks for the help of an ex-girlfriend, a former FBI agent, they think they have their motive. Official investigations have gone so far wrong that the only way Marc knows to save his daughter is to go on the run with Rachel, hoping her FBI training will help him succeed where no one else has. Trouble is, Rachelís mysterious past is getting in their way. Marc has to break through her defenses as well as his own, to deal with his daughterís abduction.
What NO SECOND CHANCE has going for it is high speed and surprises. Against it is a total lack of believability. I read its four hundred plus pages in one day, fuming most of the way. I canít tell you about a lot of the flaws, because I donít want to spoil the secrets, but Iíll touch on the ones I can.
First, and most prominently, anyone as innocent as Marc should be pounding on the door of the FBI demanding a lie detector test Ė if for some reason investigators hadnít already asked for it. Then the whole vigilante thing could have been avoided.
Then there is the police prejudice, which causes them to ignore anything that doesnít fit their preconceptions. Sure, thereís bound to be some of that, but how extreme can it get? Enough to make them ignore the preponderance of the evidence?
Then thereís Lydia. I can tell you about Lydia because we meet her near the beginning of the book, shaking down a widow for her husbandís life insurance by threatening to kill her children. Lydia is a former child TV star, so disillusioned at the loss of her fame that she hates everyone. She looks so sweet and beautiful she can get away with anything, and she does. Come on, how many former child stars are so disillusioned they take up careers as serial killers? Iíll give Lydia this, she is the most interesting character in the book.
And this helper Marc and Rachel acquire along the way. Yes, they need someone by this point, someone who is related to the action, and this someone is a most colorful and unusual person for a suspense novel. Likeable, too. But a complete stranger, who abandons personal life to throw him/herself into the fray on the sides of our heroes without question? All too obviously this person would not have existed except as an answer to a plot difficulty.
Finally, the solution. Who in this world would have behaved as the kidnapper(s) did? I can only shake my head.
If you do want to read through the whole book, I can promise you at the end a very nice solution to one problem. Again, unusual, but in a good way. So NO SECOND CHANCE has some points that make it worth reading. Readers who only want intense, high speed adventure can probably get everything they want from it. NO SECOND CHANCE should really be an action movie, not a book.
April 2005 Review



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