Why I just can’t finish Harlan Coben’s ‘Fool Me Once’

Although it’s been a while since I last posted, there is a valid reason why. I can’t post reviews if I haven’t finished reading a book and I can’t finish reading a book if it doesn’t pull me into it’s story. Some people are really good at ploughing their way through a really un-enjoyable read but I just can’t do it. I physically have zero motivation to read a book that fails to impress me from the first few chapters.

Unfortunately, this is just how I feel about Harlan Coben’s Fool Me Once. As you might already know, since I read Gone Girl, I’ve been trying to look for similar crime thriller books to get into. Gone Girl was amazing (at some point I will stop writing this in every review, but please if you haven’t read it then go and read it!) and even though I disliked Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, I still managed to finish it. Harlan Coben however… well, where do I begin?

From the very first paragraph, I felt like the style of writing was very amateur. A risk that authors take with writing in the third person, I feel, is giving the reader a very detached retelling of a story that you want your readers to attach themselves to. It takes a very strong and assured authorial voice to narrate from the third person. It’s worked for books like The Mortal Instruments series for example (completely different genre but worth mentioning anyway), but for this novel it just really does not work.

There is something very jarring about the opening of the novel. I’ll insert an excerpt below:

“They buried Joe three days after his murder. Maya wore black, as befitted a grieving widow. The sun pounded down with an unflagging fury that reminded her of her months in the desert. The family pastor spouted the cliches, but Maya wasn’t listening. Her eyes drifted to the schoolyard across the street.”

There are many who will disagree with me (obviously) but this whole opening paragraph just sounds like a bored narrator stating his surroundings. There is some description, but it’s quite minimal and some of it isn’t even relevant to the opening sentence. We’re talking about a burial of somebody who has been murdered. Then we go on to talk about the sun reminding Maya of the desert, we flick back to the burial with the mention of the pastor and then suddenly we’re talking about a schoolyard. It’s a little bit messy and it doesn’t feel very well put together. 
Another little issue that I had with this book as I tried to read it, was the fact that the speech felt awkwardly injected into the narration. It wasn’t even that it was filler speech, it was more that the characters speaking felt very loosely constructed – particularly in the first chapter where Maya goes around and speaks to a lot of the guests at the funeral. 
The final issue I had was the very obvious way that the plot was being pieced together. When Maya is given the nanny cam, she is immediately analytical of it. Why? Your husband has just died, surely you have better things to concern yourself with. I personally would. But because the nanny cam is central to the plot of Maya’s husband maybe not being dead, Coben has to drop us some clues that something isn’t quite right. Subtlety would have been key here, but he chose the obvious route instead. 
On a final note, the aesthetics of the book are so off-putting! The cover is turquoise with bright neon orange print of the author’s name and a whole bright orange background for the inside cover. Oh my god, it’s horrible to look at and not very encouraging to read at all!

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