Tell No One by Harlan Coben

May 29, 2009

tell-no-one I’ve read two Harlan Coben books before, Deal Breaker, which was pretty good, and Hold Tight which was just okay. While neither novel would be called a work of literary genius, they were at least entertaining page-turners that kept me interested most of the way through. So when I found the audio version of Tell No One at the library, I figured I’d at least be in for a good story that was easy to digest. After finishing it, however, I realize I should have just stuck with the Myron Bolitar series!

Plot summary (with possible spoilers): Dr. David Beck has been gamely trying to go on with his life ever since his wife Elizabeth was murdered eight years ago. Not an easy task, considering the fact that David and Elizabeth were best friends since the age of 7, and had been together ever since. David has at least come to terms with her death, ostensibly at the hands of a serial killer dubbed KillRoy, but he hasn’t moved on romantically, not even close. So when he gets a strange, anonymous email alluding to something that only he and Elizabeth would know, it doesn’t take much for Beck to start believing that she’s still alive.

Unfortunately, Beck can’t put all of his attention on following up the Elizabeth mystery because the cops are banging on his door again. It seems that two bodies were unearthed at the cabin by the lake, the same place where Elizabeth was abducted by KillRoy eight years ago. Beck was a suspect in her initial disappearance (the husband is always the first one the police look at), but was eventually dropped when Elizabeth’s body surfaced sporting a telltale brand from the serial killer. Now with two more bodies on Beck’s property, the cops think they’ll finally be able to pin the murders on the good doctor.

After another person from Elizabeth’s past is found murdered, Beck is in real trouble. His attorney convinces him to turn himself in to avoid a media circus, but just before doing so, Beck gets another email from Elizabeth. It must be her, because she keeps using code words that only she and Beck could possibly know about. Elizabeth wants to meet David again, and he wants to go. But losing the cops, as well as a couple of thugs who are after him for different reasons, is going to be a challenge.

The rest of the novel then covers Beck’s efforts to evade the police and a Korean enforcer named Eric Wu, and finally reunite with Elizabeth after eight long years. Along the way, he learns about what really happened the night Elizabeth disappeared — and why.

My Reaction: Tell No One began with an interesting setup. The main character, David Beck, was reasonably likable, and his revelations about his relationship with Elizabeth were pretty good. I was immediately drawn into his world, and was willing to stick with him for the duration of the story.

But the story itself ended up being one of the most implausible that I ever read. At first, I kept wondering what scenario would allow Elizabeth to be alive, and Witness Protection was the only one that seemed even remotely likely. It turns out I was right, except that this wasn’t any government sponsored WitSec deal, it was just one from Elizabeth’s father. Huh? They would really put David and Elizabeth’s mother through eight years of pure hell just on the off chance that someone was still listening in on them? Whatever.

Another thing I didn’t like about this book were the cartoonish supporting characters. Specifically, I’m talking about Eric Wu and Tyrese the crack dealer. Wu is described as an enforcer with superhuman strength in his hands, and at one point Coben says that Wu punches concrete blocks to build up strength and can kill people with just his fingers. I mean, it’s laughable the way Coben talks about this guy. And the crack dealer with the heart of gold was just as ridiculous. Like Tyrese would drop everything for a couple of days to help out a guy he barely knows? Oh, puhleeze.

Don’t even get me started about the resolution to the farcical plot or why anyone in their right minds would think that that was the only possible way to achieve the desired results.

Overall, Tell No One ended up being a huge waste of time. Nothing about it was believable, from Beck’s instantaneous belief that Elizabeth was still alive after a single anonymous email to the reason for her disappearance in the first place. Save yourself some time and don’t bother with this tripe! I give this book 1 star out of 5.

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