Tell No One by Harlan Coben

Tell No One by Harlan Coben

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Mass-market, 370 pages, 2001

Rating: 7/10

Reason for Reading: Coben seems to be a name that pops up frequently in the suspense/mystery genre, so I thought I’d give him a shot.

Synopsis: Eight years ago, Dr. David Beck’s wife was brutally murdered by a killer now sitting on death row for his crimes. Out of the blue, David gets an email containing information that only his wife would have known. Long-buried bodies are being uncovered, and new murders are being committed, but David is focused on the bizarre possibility that his wife might be alive. It seems impossible, but if it’s a cruel prank, it’s about to turn deadly…

Why you should read this book: While the “is she back from the dead?” set-up of the book sounds like the plot from a pre-teen horror novel, Coben manages to take it beyond the feared level of goofiness. For the most part, characters are as important as the plot, which might be a bonus if you’ve read too many books where the author’s only goal seems to be to out-gross other medicore writers. Not a cozy mystery by any means, but family, love, and children are topics that put some meat on the bones of the plot. Something light to read for a lazy summer day.

Why you should avoid this book: David is such a goody-two-shoes, and his marriage with Elizabeth was such a perfect state of happiness that it’s nauseating (and Coben having David acknowledge it doesn’t make it any more tolerable). A little ambiguity in the marriage would have made David’s situation more complex and challenging, rather than one perfect person in a vacantly single-minded pursuit of another perfect person. Some of Coben’s ‘plot twists’ fall firmly into the category of ludicrous – nothing is worse for breaking the mood in a mystery/suspense novel. Somewhat of a take-it-or-leave-it book.

Opening paragraph:

There should have been a dark whisper in the wind. Or maybe a deep chill in the bone. Something. An ethereal song only Elizabeth or I could hear. A tightness in the air. Some textbook premonition. There are misfortunes we almost expect in life – what happened to my parents, for example – and then there are other dark moments, moments of sudden violence, that alter everything. There was my life before the tragedy. There is my life now. The two have painfully little in common.

Fabulous quotes:

‘There’s strong evidence that suggests the two thugs, not KillRoy, assaulted Beck.’
‘What evidence?’
‘Buried with the bodies, we found a baseball bat with blood on it. The full DNA match will take a while, but the prelininary results strongly suggest that the blood is Beck’s.’

Arturo arrived first and found the studio door ajar. He pushed it open.
No answer. Arturo called her name again. Still no answer. He entered and scanned the studio. She wasn’t there. He opened the darkroom door. The usual harsh smell of film-development acids still dominated, but there was something else, something faint and below the surface that still had the ability to make his hair stand on end.
Something distinctly human.
Gary rounded the corner in time to hear the scream.

Also recommended: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown; Messiah by Boris Starling; Birdman by Mo Hayder.

Also by this author: The Woods; Promise Me; The Innocent; Just One Look; No Second Chance; Gone for Good; Darkest Fear; The Final Detail; One False Move; Back Spin; Fade Away; Drop Shot; Deal Breaker.

Author’s website:

Fun tidbit: Wondering about the medical background of Tell No One‘s main character, David? Inspiration may lie in the fact that Coben’s wife is the medical director of a covenant house in New Jersey.

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007

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