Tag Archives: No Second Chance

‘No Second Chance,’ by Harlan Coben

Conner nodded, pleased by my response. I love him. He breaks my heart and brings me joy in equal measure and at exactly the same time. Twenty-six months old. Two months older than Tara. I watch his development with awe and a longing that could heat a furnace.

Harlan Coben has a winning formula for turning out thrillers that grab the reader. He starts with love – love for lovers, for spouses, and (especially) love for one’s children. Then he asks, “What do we fear the most for these people?” Then he takes that fear and distills it, producing at the end of the coils a spirit that burns like carbolic acid. And he applies that spirit to some innocent, fairly decent protagonist.

That, my friends, is how story-building works.

No Second Chance stars Dr. Marc Seidman, plastic surgeon, who wakes up in a hospital room to learn he’s been in a coma for weeks. He was shot in his own home, and barely survived. His wife, also shot, did not survive.

And his infant daughter Tara vanished like smoke

The police have no leads. Their best theory is that Marc himself engineered his wife’s murder, but that theory makes no sense, and they know it.

Then a ransom note comes to Marc’s wealthy father-in-law. He and Marc agree to involve the police, but they will regret it, because the cops get spotted, the kidnappers get away with the money, and Tara remains lost.

The next time a demand comes, eighteen months later, they leave the cops out. But Marc instead brings in someone from his past, a former FBI agent he dated in college and nearly married. Working with an old lover can be a complication in any endeavor – but this time it might blow up in all their faces.

I like most of Harlan Coben’s books, and I liked No Second Chance more than most. The plot is very complex, but it’s revealed in layers, which kept this old man from getting confused (I like that). There were also some intriguing side characters, like a former child actress turned stone-cold-hitwoman, and a mullet-wearing, NRA-member, redneck who turns out to be good friend to have in a corner (this book is a few years old. I wonder if Coben would have the nerve to include such a character in a novel today).

Highly recommended, with cautions for intensity.

No Second Chance, by Harlan Coben

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.

Highly recommended.