Fool Me Once

Written by Harlan Coben

Review written by Ali Karim

Ali Karim was a Board Member of Bouchercon [The World Crime & Mystery Convention] and co-chaired programming for Bouchercon Raleigh, North Carolina in 2015. He is Assistant Editor of Shots eZine, British correspondent for The Rap Sheet and writes and reviews for many US magazines & Ezines.

Fool Me Once
Penguin Random House
RRP: £7.99
Released: June 30 2016

The master of the domestic thriller returns, with a startling novel that evokes memories of his breakout novel ‘Tell No One’ with a narrative that is as elegant as it is engaging. The theme of War on the Fabric of Family relationships is explored, as if torn from the headlines that detail our military operations in the Middle-East; and like PTSD, what is revealed is far from pretty.

We follow the tragic life of Maya Stern, retired US Military helicopter pilot and her family; though you have to follow the plot closely for the clues to the mystery are hidden in plain view. Stern, coupled with the demons of her past [from her military service] is now transformed into what we term Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder [PTSD].

With her infant daughter Lily, Maya has to cope with her husband Joe’s funeral. Tragedy seems striated into Maya’s life as not only has she to cope with the senseless killing of Joe, but earlier her Sister Claire was also murdered in what appeared as a home invasion gone awry, and there's the mystery surrounding her husband Joe's late brother and the wealthy and powerful family Maya married into.

So to support herself and daughter she works as a Flight-Instructor, and has a Nanny-Cam, to keep watch on Lily and the child-minder while she’s working; but when she sees what appears as her dead husband on the video-feed from the Camera, she starts to question her sanity, her reality, and that of her family.

Maya soon becomes paranoid and she trusts no one, especially her late Husband’s wealthy family, nor her late Sister’s husband, nor the police, nor Lily’s Nanny, and then not even herself.

Coben’s research into the lives and deaths of our military personnel is very evident here [for Coben was one of many thriller writers to have visited overseas American Troops via International Thriller Writers], for he deals with the absurdity and Horror of War upon families with empathy and compassion. The use of a strong female lead is leveraged well, contrasting the horrors of war on even the most strong among the ranks, irrespective of sex.

Thankfully there is observational humour, to prevent the grimness of what Maya Stern slowly uncovers in her pursuit of the truth from overwhelming the narrative. The final pull of the curtain at the dénouement is deftly done, and makes one pause for thought before quickly flicking back to see the clues that were missed.

Like its premise and climax [the image of a dead man on a camera], this thriller is indeed a revelation [pun intended]. 

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