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Think Twice by Harlan Coben - Review

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Harlan Coben

Grand Central Publishing

362 Pages (E-book) (Hardcover)


Think Twice Cover

Fictional series characters often seem to be stuck in a bizarre time warp. Years pass, and more books are written, but, like Dorian Gray or the residents of Neverland, these characters always remain the same age. Nero Wolfe and Perry Mason solved mysteries for over three decades but didn’t approach retirement age. By contrast, Harlan Coben has allowed his series protagonist, Myron Bolitar, to age. Coben has only written five Bolitar novels since 2000, but Myron has gone from a young hotshot agent to a middle-aged man well aware of his mortality. Coben’s newest Bolitar novel, Think Twice, gives readers their first look at Bolitar in eight years. The wait was worth it. This novel is an excellent mystery thriller with some surprising twists.

Think Twice brings back some essential characters from earlier books. The most significant among them is Greg Downing, Myron’s former client and a one-time romantic rival with a penchant for disappearing when things get   

tough. His most recent disappearance was five years ago, after being fired as coach of the Milwaukee Bucks. Greg then announced he would find spiritual comfort in Southeast Asia and vanished. Two years later, his ashes turned up, and Myron delivered the eulogy at his funeral. Now, however, Greg is a suspect in a grisly celebrity double murder. His DNA was found on one victim despite his supposedly being dead for three years. Since Greg, if alive, is still Myron’s client, he and his partner Win Lockwood try to find the missing man. 

What readers know from the book’s first chapter, but Myron and Win don’t, is that Greg’s supposed murder victims may instead be the latest victims of a highly elusive serial killer who has been active for years. This killer doesn’t just dispatch victims without a trace. Instead, they leave carefully planted evidence behind to frame an innocent person with a motive. Once the police catch the patsy, the case is officially closed, so there is no pattern of unsolved cases for the authorities to track down. If alive, Greg may have been the latest target of this killer’s frame-up.

I’ve read serial killer mysteries since Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon, and I thought I had run across every possible modus operandi and motivation for both fictional and real-life murderers. Coben’s villain, which one character dubs the “Setup Serial Killer,” is different and utterly fascinating. Several chapters in Think Twice are written in the second person from the killer’s perspective. Readers get increasingly detailed insight into how the killer plans and executes both the killings and the frame-ups. As the book progresses, the killer’s and Bolitar’s paths grow closer and closer until a spectacular finale.

Before that last encounter, Myron and Win do some old-fashioned detective work, tracing what happened to Greg since his supposed disappearance. They soon link Greg’s disappearance to that of a former male hustler who also disappeared at about the same time. I don’t want to get into too much detail here because this legwork is just as interesting as Myron’s later deductions regarding the killer’s identity. While Myron is trying to trace the hustler from his last known location in Las Vegas, he runs afoul of some nasty goons in the employ of a mobster with the catchy nickname of “Joey the Toe.” Those who like two-fisted action will find plenty when Myron and Win encounter Joey the Toe’s goons.

Think Twice gives readers additional insight into Myron’s character. He has a conscience and debates the relative morality of various possible courses of action. By contrast, Win is more ruthless and amoral, willing to do whatever is necessary to get information. Win isn’t the traditional mystery sidekick; he’s as complex a character as Myron and an intriguing counterpoint to Myron’s sense of morality.

I had never read any previous Myron Bolitar novels before Think Twice, but that didn’t present a problem. As the book progressed, the author gave me all the backstory I needed to understand what was happening. Further, he did so without lengthy, distracting information dumps. Almost every bit of backstory is tied into the central storyline. The relationship between Myron and Greg, which dates back to their college days, comes into focus as the novel progresses. Those who read the earlier Bolitar books in which Greg appeared will have an advantage. (I read reviews of other Bolitar novels after finishing this one to better understand Greg’s earlier appearances.) 

Think Twice has everything readers should want in a mystery story. It has a fully developed protagonist, interesting supporting characters, both humorous and dangerous, and a complex plot with some tremendous third-act twists. It also has action, procedural, and deduction moments. This is one of the best detective novels I’ve read in a long time and one that may net Harlan Coben another Edgar Award. Readers shouldn’t think twice about reading Think Twice.

NOTE: The publisher graciously provided me with a copy of this book through NetGalley. However, the decision to review the book and the contents of this review are entirely my own.

In this interview, the author describes what inspired him to write Think Twice:

Harlan Coben is the #1 New York Times author of thirty-five novels including WINTHE BOY FROM THE WOODSRUN AWAYFOOL ME ONCETELL NO ONE and the renowned Myron Bolitar series. His books are published in 46 languages around the globe with over 80 million books in print worldwide.

Harlan is the creator and executive producer of several Netflix television dramas including FOOL ME ONCE, STAY CLOSE, THE STRANGER, SAFE, THE FIVE, THE INNOCENT and THE WOODS. He is also the creator and executive producer of the Prime Video series Harlan Coben’s SHELTER, based on his young adult books featuring Mickey Bolitar. Harlan was the showrunner and executive producer for two French TV mini-series, UNE CHANCE DE TROP (NO SECOND CHANCE) and JUST UN REGARD (JUST ONE LOOK). KEINE ZWEIT CHANCE, also based on Harlan’s novel, aired in Germany on Sat1.

Buy Harlan Coben's books on Amazon:

Run Away Cover
Don't Let Go Cover
Deal Breaker Cover

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