Fool Me Once
Each year, I find myself eagerly awaiting the next thriller from author Harlan Coben. I haven’t fallen madly in love with all of them, but none have left me bitterly disappointed either. So, when Fool Me Once came up for review, I jumped at the chance to share my thoughts about it.
Former special ops pilot Maya Stern hasn’t been home from Afghanistan very long when her husband is gunned down before her eyes. The story opens at his funeral, and the reader quickly learns that all is not as it seems. Despite what appears to be a simple case of a well-to-do young man being in the wrong place at the wrong time, the police are suspicious of the circumstances leading up to Joe’s death. Immediately after the burial, Maya is followed home by the lead detective and asked a series of questions that makes it plain that he knows more than he’s letting on about what happened that night in Central Park. Does he suspect Maya of having something to do with Joe’s death, or is it possible that his murder is linked to the death of her sister Claire a couple of years ago?
Suspicious by nature, Maya gives in to the urgings of a good friend of hers and installs a hidden camera in the den of the home she and Joe shared with their two-year-old daughter Lily. She isn’t really expecting to see anything sinister, but now that she’s parenting Lily on her own, she figures a little extra vigilance could go a long way. When the camera shows Lily and Joe playing together, Maya knows something strange is afoot, but to discover exactly what is going on means she will have to risk revealing a secret which could change her life irrevocably.
Can we always believe what we see with our own eyes? In Maya’s case, the answer isn’t always yes. Plagued with flashbacks from wartime, she knows she isn’t necessarily a reliable witness but, determined to find some much needed answers, Maya sets out on a dangerous quest that could cost her everything she holds dear, including her life.
This book appealed to me largely because of the complexity of the plot, something that’s difficult to describe in a review without giving away information that would spoil the big reveal. Mr. Coben is a very talented writer, capable of keeping readers guessing until the very last page, something many writers aspire to, but not all are able to achieve. Fool Me Once contains one of the finest endings I’ve encountered in a long time. It’s totally unexpected, and, while not something every reader will be satisfied with, I’m confident it will strike a chord with those who read a lot of thrillers and enjoy a jolt of surprise when a book goes in a completely unforeseen direction.
I sometimes found myself growing frustrated with Maya. She has a bit of a savior-complex and, while the author shows us the reasons behind her behavior, there were a few times I wanted to scream at her to get over herself already. Despite her feelings to the contrary, she is not the only strong, capable person in the world. Others in her sphere are able to accomplish tasks without her safeguarding them along the way. I wish she had let some of her supposedly close friends in a bit more because it would have lent some credence to her countless assertions that she trusted them with her life. Because of her extremely self-reliant nature, it often felt like she was simply playing lip service to friendship, and that felt a bit old.
Having said that, I must also say that Maya’s dedication to her daughter is one of her most admirable qualities. Even when she won’t act to save herself, it’s obvious she’ll do anything to ensure Lily’s safety. She doesn’t just claim willingness to sacrifice everything for the child – she really means it. Fiction has created numerous dedicated mothers, but few have gone to the same lengths as Maya Stern.
If you’re in the mood for something that will keep you glued to the edge of your seat, I strongly encourage you to give Fool Me Once a try. I’m sure it will delight those who are new to Mr. Coben’s writing as well as those who are trying him out for the first time.