Fool Me Once is a suspense thriller novel by Harlan Coben. For people who live out regular lives, whether as celebrities or the person that fixes your coffee at the local coffee shop, the concept of war is something that isn’t much thought of. It is something that happens in movies. Or, as Coben writes, war is something that happens “Not just in another continent, but another realm”. Well, Coben aims to set the record straight.

Maya Stern is a mother of a two-year-old girl and a retiree of the military. Held at gunpoint by men in ski-masks, her husband Joe was shot and killed. She was there when it happened, and the killers had yet to be caught. This same husband, who was killed and buried three days after his murder, makes a sudden appearance on Maya’s nanny cam. Is she going insane? Or is there someone out there interested in playing twisted games with her?

There are still jaw-dropping shockers out there, and this book which explores the full reach of war is one of them.

The effort Coben took to give this book a believable contemporary setting cannot be ignored. Facebook does make it into the book. A mobile app that allows parents to keep an eye on their children while they’re at daycare also plays a big part. To give a better example, Coben describes a rather unique looking gunshop in Chapter 16. “Forget dust—everything in here gleamed anew. The unfailingly solicitous employees all donned black polo shirts neatly tucked into khakis.”

Maya has done something regrettable while in service to her country that has wormed its way into her civilian life and turned it upside down. Her life isn’t the only one that her deed in war has touched. Readers will learn how war can be a multifarious creature with its talons hooked into every part of the world, no matter what a person’s level of involvement or concept of war might be.

Coben gets straight to the point by starting this book with Joe’s funeral, three days after the robbery that ended his life. In the first Chapter, readers are introduced to Maya, the widow who is physically present at her husband’s funeral, but mentally someplace else. Her thoughts are scattered all over the place. “The memory, even now, even standing in this stifling humidity with his dead body feet away, made her smile.”

Maya’s scattering thoughts while attending her husband’s funeral paints her as a woman who’s in denial, although it might be because none of the people at the funeral, excluding her daughter Lily, are close relatives. If it is the latter, it is mistily apparent. Maya’s nanny is all professional, addressing Maya like any employee would an employer. It is clear that Maya doesn’t trust her with her child, but the real reason is never stated.

Whatever the reader thinks is going to happen next, that reader will quickly find out that Coben has taken extraordinary steps to make sure that the reader’s assumptions are always off by miles. I recommend this book to readers who think they can solve the mystery of a mystery novel long before they reach the ending. There are still jaw-dropping shockers out there, and this book which explores the full reach of war is one of them.

I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House SA in exchange for an honest review.

 Paperback Information:

Publisher: Century
Date Published: March 24, 2016
Genre: Crime & Mystery
Pages: 352

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