Thursday, January 5, 2012

Hardcover Hat-trick

Deal Breaker
By Harlan Coben

There are two genres of fiction I don't pick up much: sci-fi/fantasy and murder-mystery. So a couple months ago when my book club read Gone for Good by Harlan Coben, I was skeptical about how much I would enjoy it. Much to my surprise, I was along for the ride and got a kick out of the witty dialogue. I thought I would be turning my grandfather, an avid reader, onto someone new when I told him about Coben. Should have known better; he already knew all about him and has many of his books and lent me a couple of them. After Gone for Good, I read Tell No One, and most recently, Deal Breaker.

The first two were "stand alone" novels, if you will. Deal Breaker is the first of Coben's books centered around Myron Bolitar, a sports agent who seems to run into mystery and trouble at every turn. But he's not just a sports agent; he is a former FBI investigator with a law degree. That and a best friend with some lethal martial arts skills seem to keep him one step ahead of all the seedy characters he encounters while trying to sign his professional athlete clients to lucrative contracts and rekindle the romance with his lost love. Who also happens to be the sister of the missing (maybe dead? maybe not?) girl Deal Breaker's story revolves around. 

All three books were similar in that I was asking the same questions: Is she dead or isn't she? How does this guy know all these low-lifes and manage to escape death at every turn? How do these people with full-time jobs have time to dig around in old murder cases and come up with things the police don't? Somehow, though, they weren't completely predictable. There was one last turn in each of them that kept me guessing until the end. Maybe the endings weren't entirely believable, but is that really why anybody picks up a murder-mystery? We want to be shaking our heads in disbelief. I may have rolled my eyes a few times as the story lines got a further and further fetched (far-er and far-er fetched?) but what really kept me reading is that Coben is funny. Like laugh-out-loud-and-worry-I-woke-up-the-baby funny. Even in the darkest moments of danger, his characters are keeping up an inner dialogue (and sometimes a dialogue with their tormentors) full of witty and sometimes scathing observations. Think Seinfeld with a gun to his head. So while three murder-mysteries in as many months might be my limit, Harlan Coben kept it fun and interesting.

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