Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben (Penguin, 2016)

 

Think Space Mountain in Disney World, which you ride in complete darkness. It's the only roller coaster in the world that I will ride on because I can't see all the scarey dips and whirls coming at me in the inkiness. Riding Space Mountain is the best analogy that I can think of for reading Harlan Coben's hottest best seller Fool Me Once.

One of Coben's strongest talents as a writer is his unpredictable plot twists, and Fool Me Once fooled me much more than twice. As Coben produces new works, his style and character development continue to intensify and his novels are recognized for their brilliance by climbing rapidly to the top of the New York Times Best Seller list. Also, because Coben is a native New Jerseyean, his books are set in the Garden State so the back drops of places like Short Hills Mall and towns like Springfield make his writing especially fun for those of us who live in the state.

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The unique protagonist of Fool Me Once, Maya Burkett, is a former Army helicopter pilot who spent much of her time in the service providing cover for advancing ground troops. “She'd started by flying Ult-60 Black Hawks at Fort Campbell before logging enough miles to apply for the prestigious 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) in the Middle East,” (p.30) we are told. However, her career as a pilot in the armed forces was curtailed when she chose to target an area with civilians in an effort to save American soldiers, killing innocent victims. A loathsome character named Cory the Whistle exposes Maya's exploits as a pilot, destroying her reputation and career. Like many soldiers who have endured combat, Maya suffers nightly with excruciating dreams, reliving the horrors of war. She obviously suffers from severe PTSD.

To add to Maya's suffering, while she was on active duty, her sister, Claire, was murdered. And, only a few months later, Joe, Maya's husband is shot in an apparent mugging attempt, leaving Maya as a single mother to a beautiful two year old daughter. Maya has a lot to work through in order to even begin leading a normal life.

When Maya's friend, Eileen, presents her with a nanny cam in order to keep watch on what is transpiring in her home while she is at work as a flight instructor, Maya doesn't hesitate to set up the camera. Although she would have preferred to place her child in a nursery school, Maya's dictatorial and wealthy mother-in-law insists on employing Isabella, the daughter of the nanny who raised Joe and his siblings. One day, when she checks the video, Maya sees an image that changes the focus of her life from job and family to that of private investigator. She is shocked to see the image of her dead husband, Joe, visiting her home. When she questions Isabella about the image on the video, the nanny spritzes Maya with pepper spray and escapes, taking the memory card with her. Thus, Maya has no proof of what she claims to have seen.

Maya's investigation into the deaths of not only her husband, but her sister as well, lead her down a dark and treacherous path. She learns that the man whom she thought she knew when she married him, carried dark secrets, which his family is reluctant to reveal. As the novel races to its conclusion, all of the pieces that Coben has dropped into the story, take on a different meaning as the reader ultimately realizes who is the actual villain of the piece. For fans of hair raising thrillers, don't be afraid to get on the roller coaster that takes you on an unpredictable and amazing ride.