Harlan Coben – No Second Chance

Since becoming a parent, I’ve developed an almost allergic reaction to bad things happening to young children (babies, infants, and toddlers) in fiction and film. I first noticed this reaction when I was reading Michael Marshall Smith’s The Straw Men. There is a point about half-way through the book that literally took my breath away, and it took me a while before I was willing to carry on reading it. I had a similar reaction to No Second Chance.

The book starts with Dr. Marc Seidman being shot. He surfaces from unconsciousness twelve days later, and learns that his wife was shot and killed, and that his six-month-old daughter is missing. Then the ransom note arrives.

Like all of Harlan Coben’s books, No Second Chance is fast-paced and tightly plotted. In style and tone, it closely matches Tell No One. In that book, the protagonist thought his wife was dead, and fought throughout the book to find out what really happened to her; in No Second Chance the hero is struggling to get back his daughter. Both characters are completely devastated by their losses, and are driven to desperation by hopes of getting their loved ones back. Consequently, No Second Chance felt less fresh and original than Tell No One. Although I didn’t predict the final twist, it was obvious there was going to be one. I found it stretched the ending out just that little bit too far, though.

It’s a quick, thrilling read, but it’s not one of Coben’s best.