I like Harlan Coben better with each novel of his I read. I found No Second Chance a superior thriller, dispensing big doses of those truths of the heart that mean so much to me in a story.
Dr. Marc Seidman was a successful plastic surgeon (the kind who repairs cleft palates for Third World children) when he was shot and nearly killed in his home. He has no memory of his attacker. All he knows is that when he regained consciousness in the hospital, his wife was dead (also from a gunshot wound) and their six-month-old daughter Tara had vanished without a trace.
The police have nothing. Marc himself is a suspect, but only under one of many scenarios, all of them unsatisfactory.
Then there’s a ransom call. He’s to bring a sum of money to a certain location, and not to involve the police. “There will be no second chance.”
In consultation with his wealthy father-in-law, who provides the cash, he decides to bring the police in. The result is disastrous. The money is taken, but Tara is not returned. The kidnappers call to say that’s because they called the cops.
Marc clings to the dream that Tara is alive somewhere. He begins an investigation of his own, bringing in a friend from the past, a former girlfriend recently fired by the FBI.
The plot of this book is extremely convoluted, and (to be honest) objectively unlikely. But the author’s strength is in his examination of the passions, loves, fears and hopes that drive the characters to make their different choices. The story has emotional logic, and it kept me turning the pages, anguishing with the protagonist.