Drop Shot by Harlan Coben

September 5, 2009

drop-shot Plot summary (with spoilers): Wise-cracking sports agent Myron Bolitar always seems to get involved with the wrong people. The last time we saw him, in Deal Breaker, his highly coveted first-round draft pick was brought up on murder charges. In this second installment of the series, Valerie Simpson, a former tennis star looking to make a comeback with Myron as her agent, is shot on the concourse at Flushing Meadows during the U.S. Open. One of Myron’s other clients, budding men’s tennis star Duane Richwood, is a suspect in the case.

Though no one invites him to, Myron decides to look into Valerie’s murder a bit closer. There are some things about it that trouble him, including the fact that Valerie called Duane several times before she died — and the fact that Duane denied ever meeting her. When pressed, Duane admits that he was having an affair with Valerie and simply didn’t want current squeeze Wanda to know about it. But that excuse doesn’t sit well with Myron.

Myron and best pal Win Lockwood dig deeper, and soon discover that Valerie’s murder has distinct ties to the six-year-old murder of Alexander Cross, the spoiled, rich son of a U.S. Senator. The Cross murder was quickly attributed to two black youths, Eddie Crane and Curtis Yeller, who allegedly tried to rob the tennis club where Cross was attending a party. But upon speaking to the Senator, Myron learns that Alex Cross was a drug user, and that his murder was a lot more twisted and complex than originally thought.

Myron and Win follow the leads through various twists and turns before finally coming upon the answer — one that was telegraphed to the reader from a mile away. It turned out that there was a third black guy at the tennis club that night, and it was Duane Richwood. Thing is, Duane and his buddies weren’t stealing anything, they were just playing tennis. But a jacked up Alex Cross tried to play hero and attacked them, leading to his murder. Duane ran away, and the police never learned of his presence — but Valerie Simpson saw him. She was going to blow his cover soon, which is why she had to be taken out. By Duane’s mother.

Liked:

  • This was a very quick read and was entertaining more often than not. Even when I knew exactly where the plot was going, I still felt compelled to read on.
  • Myron and Win are terrific characters. They’re funny, they’re likable, and they have the resources to see these cases through to the end. Again, even though the plot was predictable as hell, I still wanted to read it, mostly because of Myron and Win.

Disliked:

  • I am not the kind of reader that obsesses over every clue left by a writer in an effort to identify the killer before the author does. So I was very surprised to have figured the “mystery” out well before it was time to reveal the truth. The part that gave it away was when “Duane” was supposedly having an affair with Mrs. Yeller. I knew right then that she was his mom, and began putting the other pieces together after that. Just think: if the real Richwoods had invested in identity theft protection, none of these crimes would have been possible. Then again, I doubt this kind of service was even around when the book was published in 1996.
  • This was truly a case that Myron should have left alone. There was no reason to keep pursuing it to the end. What did he achieve? Mrs. Yeller committed suicide in order to keep her son’s secret. Way to go there, Bolitar. Maybe that’s why Coben also threw in the part about child rapist Pavel Menansi being taken out by Win. That was the only positive about the whole thing.
  • As funny as I think Myron and Win are, I really can’t stand (or believe) the way that every single person in their universe is also a smart-ass. From Myron’s mother to Jessica, Esperanza, Sheriff Jake, and Frank Ache, they ALL sound alike. What’s up with that??? Come on, restrict the wisecracks to Myron and Win, please. Otherwise, it gets tiresome.
  • I read the author’s Tell No One a few months ago, and was surprised to see that he used the same ol’ switcheroo in this one! WTF?? So the person thought to be dead wasn’t really dead — the body was just purposely misidentified by a family member and the autopsy couldn’t prove otherwise? Oh, brother. It’s one thing when different authors come up with the same idea, or “borrow” from each other. But to reuse your own plot device? LAME!!

My Rating:
Despite these problems, I still thought Drop Shot by Harlan Coben was a decent read. It was fast-paced and entertaining, and didn’t veer off into too many unnecessary scenes or subplots. The mystery was too easy to figure out, and there wasn’t much of a payoff at the end, so I have to bring my rating down to 3 stars out of 5.

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