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Just One Look - Harlan Coben
Member Name: Drewster_Rooster
Just One Look - Harlan Coben
Advantages: Compelling, multi-layered storyline, superb ending
We discover that life for Grace Lawson is about to turn upside down when she picks up some holiday photographs and notices one that doesn't belong. A group of five people are pictured in the erroneous snap and one of the figures she thinks she recognises as her husband, Jack but as the picture is old and appears to have been taken from over a decade ago she cannot be sure. The other people are strangers to Grace and mystified by its appearance she assumes that someone is playing a bizarre joke on her and waits for Jack to return home so she can quiz him about her strange discovery. The photograph is more significant than Grace could ever realise and its unexplainable appearance begins a chain of events that she could never have predicted. Kidnapping, life threatening danger and a furious fight to unearth the truth are told in the novels 386 pages and once Grace begins to look deeper into her own past as well as her husbands it soon becomes clear that she is an unwilling catalyst for what is about to take place.
One of the key strengths of this story in my opinion is the fact that the plotline focuses around this one out-of-place item and how the most innocent looking of things can have such a devastating effect on Grace and her family. There are questions that spring to mind as soon as this discovery takes place which are explored and explained as the novel goes on and what starts off as a curious mystery turns into something a lot more sinister. Harlan Coben manages to take a single item and create a whole world around it as the multi-layered plot introduces characters and connections that are all interweaved with one another and we slowly learn the answers to the questions that are posed throughout the storyline.
The book manages to engage you and draw you into the world of Grace and her family and you want them to be alright, you join her as she is faced with trying to work out what is happening and share her shock when revelations are revealed. There are multiple surprises in 'Just one Look' that I didn't see coming and the final 30-40 pages are among some of the most jaw-droppingly good I have ever read and whilst you may think that you have some of the answers you won't have them all and the twists and turns are a joy to discover.
I only have one other book to compare this to by the same author and this time his writing style seems to different here; In 'Tell no One', the first book I read, I noticed and commented in my other review that Cobens sentences were short and snappy, this for me pushed the plot forward and gave it momentum, here there are many more descriptive passages which flesh out the characters and provide a back story and history. This really works in this book as you feel that you 'know' everyone and as the cast of characters is bigger than in Tell no One the added detail is needed so you can understand why they do what they do as anything less would render them as one-dimensional and ultimately you wouldn't care what happened to them.
This is a standalone novel so would be a perfect place to start if you are new to the author and even though there are references to characters that appear in other books (there are two here who are featured in 'Tell no One') you don't need to know them as their inclusion is explained. For me this gave the book added interest and it was a nice touch having characters who we have 'met' before even if one of them was just included in a fleeting reference. Another observation I made in the two books that I have now read is that Coben doesn't rely on cheap tricks to shock his readers, there is no bad language whatsoever in the book and no sexual references or activity - his storylines are so well conceived and delivered that he doesn't need to be controversial or deliberately shocking and the story benefits from being told without the need to offend. That doesn't mean that the book is somehow diluted though, there are descriptions of violent acts contained within the pages which may be considered strong by some, however the book is intended for adults and any violence that is described is there for the plot and not just for the sake of it.
Overall I found this to be a superb and compelling read which I managed to get through in the space of 2 days, I had distractions this time which meant I couldn't give the book my full attention when I first started to read it so I had to come back to it a day later to finish it off, had the circumstances been right then this would have been another 'read in one sitting' as I really didn't want to put the book down once I started it. This was just as good as the first book I read by Harlan Coben and in some ways better thanks to the intricate storyline and the remarkable ending and will receive another five star rating from me.
I paid around £4.00 for my new paperback copy of this book from Amazon Market Place (including p&p) and there are various options when it comes to purchasing it from prices ranging from £0.01 for a second hand, used copy up to the cover price of £6.99 if you buy offline. However you buy it I can't see it disappointing you and if you are already familiar with the author then this is a required purchase. It was first released in 2004 so has been available a while now but as I explained in my other review I have only just been introduced to the books of this author so am at the moment playing catch up.
In conclusion then if you want a book that will deliver a whole host of twist, turns and surprises then Just One Look will tick all those boxes for you, it comes highly recommended by me and I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish. Thanks for reading my review please note that this may also appear on ciao under my username.
Summary: Another Harlan Coben must-read