One False Move by Harlan Coben

September 17, 2010

Plot summary (with spoilers): Sports agent/detective Myron Bolitar is back in action with another case. This time he’s called in by old associate Norm Zuckerman to be a bodyguard of sorts to Brenda Slaughter, a professional basketball player who is going to be the face of the new women’s league Norm is starting. Brenda has been getting threatening phone calls recently, and since Norm knows about Myron’s background doing work with the FBI, he figured Myron would be perfect for the job. Of course, there’s always the chance that Brenda will sign Myron as her agent, which would be good for MB Sports as well. Win-win.

Myron agrees, more because of his old friendship with Brenda’s father Horace than for any monetary aspirations. He’s completely up front with Brenda about what Norm asked him to do, which she appreciates — all the while stating that she doesn’t need a bodyguard. But after she tells Myron the whole story, he begins to realize that there is true danger involved.

The main plot is actually quite complicated and branches out into a number of different directions. The major point is that Brenda’s mother Anita suddenly disappeared 20 years ago, nine months after discovering the body of Arthur Bradford’s wife. The death was ruled an accident, but since the Bradfords were a wealthy, politically inclined family like the Kennedys, an air of suspicion hung over the incident. What happened to Anita? Was she silenced because she knew the truth about the “accident”? Did she run away from Horace because he was abusive? Why didn’t she ever try to contact Brenda again?

In seeking answers to these questions, Myron and sidekick Win get caught up in deception and intrigue that dates back two decades. Throw in Arthur Bradford’s campaign for governor, Horace Slaughter’s murder, the involvement of the Ache brothers with a rival basketball league and rival candidate, and there’s clearly a long list of suspects to deal with. As if that weren’t complicated enough, Myron finds himself falling for Brenda, even though he and Jessica now live together.

As usual, Coben finds a way to tie everything together and allow Myron and Win to solve the case and emerge triumphant at the very end.

Liked:

  • I liked that for once, the big, powerful, rich family wasn’t entirely to blame for whatever bad things happened here. It would have been far too easy — not to mention cliché for the Bradfords to have killed Anita to maintain a secret. Thankfully, Coben didn’t go down that road.
  • The case itself kept me guessing until the end, as I never would have pegged the aunt as a greedy little killer. But I guess that scenario was plausible enough, given the setup Coben provided.
  • I liked that Coben took a chance and had Brenda end up dead. Again, I think the easier, more conventional choice would have been to let her live and then drag out a love triangle for a few more novels. The author could have gotten a lot of mileage out of something like that, but it would have been a cheap move.

Disliked:

  • With each passing novel Esperanza grates on my nerves more and more. She comes across as such a pushy, demanding, self-entitled bitch that I have to wonder what Myron sees in her. So she has a law degree and several championship plaques from her days as a professional wrestler… so what? All she is is a competent office assistant. Changing her title to “partner” and letting her meet with clients isn’t going to make that much of a difference, is it?
  • I hated how the scene in the Bradford basement played out. OF COURSE the dialogue went on and on and on, giving Win enough time to take out four trained snipers and rescue Myron before any real damage could be done. Ugh.
  • Wow, Myron and Brenda fell for each other so quickly that I had to check the cover to make sure I wasn’t reading a Nicholas Sparks novel. WTF was that all about? In each of the previous four books, all Myron ever said about Jessica was how much he loved her, how beautiful she was, how he couldn’t function without her, blah, blah, blah. What happened to all that?

Rating:

One False Move by Harlan Coben was a decent enough little mystery. It was nicely paced, had an interesting story, and featured the charm and wit readers have come to expect from these novels. But at the same time, it didn’t really bring anything more to the table. The names of the victims and suspects might change, but the rest of it seems a bit too familiar. I give this one 3 stars out of 5.

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