The best mysteries leave you looking over your shoulder
Sandi McBride Contributing Columnist
The other day I came across a Harlan Coben book I hadn’t read.
I was surprised, because I thought I had drained the well. I found this one at the flea market and since the books were only a dime (even the hard backs) I knew I couldn’t go wrong. I figured if by some chance I had already read it , it would be easy to pass on to a neighbor or my son.
If it’s a book, some deals are just to hard to let pass. So, the other night after going through the books I had purchased (and when I tell you that every room in my house has a book shelf of some sort, you can take it to the bank) I picked up “Tell No One.”
You know, even the title gave me a bit of a chill. I felt it work across my shoulders and then slither down my spine as it pushed a rod of cold straight down. I was reading the “biopsy” of the book. “For Dr. David Beck, the loss of his wife was shattering. And everyday for the past eight years he has relived the horror of that happening.”
See what I mean? Now do you think I could wait to turn to page one? Even though dinner was on the stove, the table needed setting, and company due to walk in the door any second, I sat on the edge of the sofa and read the first three pages. I was enthralled immediately. I love a mystery. I love the ones that make you look over your shoulder. The ones that ensure that you get up out of a warm bed, breaking off the doze you were slipping into, to make sure that you locked the doors. And the windows. And checked the showers, pulling the curtains back to reveal … nothing.
I love Stephen King, but Mr. Coben holds my mystery-loving heart. What have I learned from Mr. Coben? Well, I have learned that just because someone tells a character who they are, usually that is a lie. Especially if the person is supposed to be someone in authority. Look again … nothing and no one is what or whom they seem. If in the story a character walks into a room and feels plastic sheeting under their feet, you can bet your bottom dollar that there is no painting going on. This is minimum cleanup of what is hardest to clean up in a crime scene. Blood. No matter how hard you scrub, there’s always that minuscule drop of blood that worked it’s way down into a floor board or behind a piece of paneling. You can bet on it.
Hence the large rubber sheeting on the floor, the spill catcher. If someone is supposed to be dead, keep reading, because chances are they are going to pop up at some inconvenient moment and scare the beejeebers out of you. Ah, Mr. Coben, you enthrall me no end. And you tie the ends up so cleverly. You never kill a really bad guy off ‘til you’ve used him in a couple, maybe three books.
Eric Wu is the scariest bad guy I’ve ever encountered via Mr Coben. Even the description of him is soul-shattering. And what he can do to the unsuspecting victim makes you want to skip ahead to the part where the victim is finally, hopefully mercifully dead … because you really can’t take anymore of their terror. Or the torture that ensues.
Mr. Coben’s books are almost painful to read. It’s like the old horror movies where you find yourself sitting in the theater talking to the girl up on the screen, she of the white raincoat and high heels. You’re begging her “don’t go in the house” and when she does and encounters the monster, you begin begging her to kick off those damned shoes so she can get some traction to run the hell out of that house.
Of course, she never does. Mr. Coben is not known for his happy endings. You may want to think so, but even as you’re coming up to the last page, Eric Wu has beaten you there — and he’s most likely waiting for you.
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