“No Second Chance” by Harlan Coben

Coben, Harlan. No Second Chance (2003)  
Dutton, 338 pages, $24.95 hardcover
ISBN 0-525-94729-9

“Can you ever do the wrong thing for the right reason?”

That’s the question Harlan Coben addresses in his latest thriller, No Second Chance. As we’ve come to expect from Coben, the novel grabs us with its opening line: “When the first bullet hit my chest, I thought of my daughter.” When we meet the first-person narrator, Dr. Marc Seidman, he has just awakened in a hospital ICU from a 12-day coma to learn that his wife, Monica, was shot and killed and that their 6-month old daughter, Tara, has been kidnapped. When a ransom note arrives demanding $2 million for Tara’s return, Monica’s father provides the cash and Seidman sets off to exchange the money for the baby.

But getting Tara back isn’t quite that easy. As Seidman continues to search for his daughter, several minor characters provide help: Lenny Marcus, Seidman’s best friend since childhood and now his attorney; Rachel, Seidman’s former lover, now a compromised ex-FBI agent; and Verne, a good ol’ country boy who belies his stereotype.

Though compelling, Coben’s first stand-alone thriller, Tell No One, was flawed. Coben cleaned up those problems in his next book, Gone for Good. But No Second Chance is even better; its character development and consideration of moral ambiguity stretch the boundaries of genre fiction by giving depth to some of life’s big questions.

                                                © 2003 by Mary Daniels Brown

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