PLAY DEAD by Harlan Coben

Book Quote:

“What is it?” Laura asked.
T.C. did not step forward. He did not speak. He just stood in front of her without movement, trying to summon some inner strength. With great effort he raised his head, his soulful eyes hesitantly meeting Laura’s expectant ones.
Still no words were spoken. Laura stared at him, tears welling in her eyes.
“T.C.?” she asked, her face bewildered.
T.C. raised his hand into her line of vision. Her look of bewilderment crumpled into one of sheer anguish.
“Oh God, no.” she cried. “Please, no.”
T.C. held David’s multicolored swimming trunks and clashing green Celtics shirt.
They were both shredded.


Book Review:

Review by Chuck Barksdale  (NOV 21, 2010)

Harlan Coben’s first book, Play Dead is finally back in print, and although not as good as his more famous books, it certainly is thrilling and enjoyable. The life of former supermodel and current businesswoman Laura Ayars changes significantly after she secretly marries Boston Celtic star David Baskin. While honeymooning in Australia, Laura returns from a business meeting to find a note from David that he is swimming. When David never returns, Laura notifies David’s best friend T.C. and he, along with the police determine that David has drowned.

The grief stricken Laura returns to Boston and initially has difficulty in focusing on her life and work. With the help of her sister Gloria, a former drug addict who was helped by Laura, and who also works for Laura’s firm, she slowly returns to work. However, she is never really satisfied with the circumstances behind David’s death. David was an excellent swimmer who knew when and where to swim. She’s also finds out that one of David’s savings accounts is missing money that she knows is there. This leads Laura to begin an investigation into who took the money. Ultimately, Laura returns to Australia to learn more about David’s last day. Through her hard work and some help including many people she stops trusting along the way, Laura eventually learns the real truth.

This book has many twists along the way and Coben gives the reader some real as well as misleading clues. Eventually, sometimes through flashbacks, you learn more and more about Laura and her family and David and his family. Both families were originally from the Chicago area and maybe the families had prior connections and maybe that is why Laura’s mother was so against Laura seeing David. Eventually the reader learns more and more why the book opens in 1960 with what may be a murder concerning both families.

Play Dead is told primarily in the third person perspective usually from the perspective of Laura, although sometimes from her sister Gloria, Laura’s aunt Judy Simmons and even a killer. Harlan Coben made no change from the original and the book takes place primarily in 1989 when technology was a lot different – no cell phones and no quick internet searches. This is very noticeable as things take a lot longer than they would today with these common luxuries not very widespread just 20 years ago. Also, as shown in the excerpt above, Harlan style is similar to his later books, although a bit more, and probably unnecessarily, expressive. Certainly at over 500 pages, the book is longer than Coben’s later works and one that could probably have been edited down a hundred pages or so to a more tight and suspenseful book.

Play Dead, as an action thriller, does not have any of the trademark humor in Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar books and surprisingly takes place primarily in Boston and not the more familiar north Jersey that is native to Harlan Coben and common in many of his books. As in the star of the Myron Bolitar books, basketball is prominent as David Baskin and several of his friends play for the Boston Celtics.

Play Dead reminds me of Tell No One, although it is not nearly as good. Tell No One is certainly my favorite Harlan Coben book and one of my favorite books overall, but Coben did steal some of his ideas from Play Dead. Both books start with a strong loving relationship between the two main characters and in both books, one of the two goes missing and is believed to be dead. I did find the suspense better and the story more believable in Tell No One. Of course, Play Dead does have good suspense and is definitely enjoyable, especially if you are a fan of Harlan Coben and have been waiting as many of us have for the reprinting of this difficult to find book.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-3-0from 77 readers
PUBLISHER: Signet; Reissue edition (September 28, 2010)
REVIEWER: Chuck Barksdale
EXTRAS: Excerpt
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November 22, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Debut Novel, NE & New York, Thriller/Spy/Caper, y Award Winning Author

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