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A very raw Coben thriller full of holes
Play Dead - Harlan Coben
Member Name: pmcds
Play Dead - Harlan Coben
Advantages: Fast and easy to read
Disadvantages: Full of holes and in serious need of editing
Acclaimed thriller writer Harlan Coben opens this book by stating that this is an earlier work of his and as such is raw. He himself looked at it well after the fact and decided it was considerably substandard when compared to his other works, but that we should bear this in mind when reading it. Just as well he said this, as it was a haphazard thriller that is predictable and full of holes, and in sore need of editing.
Coben's thrillers usually involve events that have happened in the past, and this one is no exception. Set at the end of the 80s/beginning of the 90s, it starts off with a mystery murder as the prologue before delving into the main plot of the book: millionairess fashion model turned design company owner Laura Ayars is in love with millionaire golden basketball ball player David 'White Lightning' Baskin. A dream couple in every sense of the word, we meet them on their honeymoon in Australia, madly making love and revelling in each other's gorgeous bodies. When David goes for a swim and doesn't come back, Laura waits almost a day before panicking, by which time it's too late. David is missing, presumed dead, and her dream world is shattered.
However, this is a thriller, and nothing is EVER as it seems. Enter various family and friends on both sides, the estranged brother and the mysterious best friend, as well as the occasional mystery paragraph where Coben's genderless clueless killer is trying to satisfy his or her thirst for murder and is determined that certain secrets be kept under wraps.
Coben certainly throws us as many curve balls as he can, but this book is all about the pace of the throwing and the frequency of the balls as opposed to how accurate or measured they are. The writing is frantic, the filler unnecessary and skimmable, and the characters either too perfect or too stereotypical. The author was certainly right in his introduction to the book: this is a raw piece of work, and although many aspiring writers may look at this and wish they were capable of writing something of a similar calibre, to make it as the top as Coben sometimes is considered takes much more than this. James Patterson manages to gives us the fast paced superficial tales because the plots are often so full and fast, but here the actual plot itself isn't that deep or challenging were you to write it out on paper, adn it starts to show.
The ending becomes almost too preposterous and there are holes all over the place that would wipe out the possibilities of this ever getting this far, but in all fairness, having read the intro I certainly just took it at face value, and enjoyed it in a curious sort of way. I read it after just having had an operation, and was in need of something particularly simple to contend with. This did fit the bill, and is very easy to read, but if you're after something akin to Coben's usual standard or matching some of the better thriller authors out there, then you may well be disappointed. Not one I'd recommend I'm afraid.
Summary: Disappointing Coben thriller but at least he explains it's an early unadulterated work