Play Dead by Harlan Coben
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
It’s never a good sign when the author begins with a foreword apologizing for the quality of the book. Coben’s re-release of his first novel was apparently some sort of eye-opener for him. Until he went back to review it he didn’t realize how amateurish it was. That said, it was pretty typical Coben, in my opinion. He didn’t get much less amateurish in his later books.
The lead character, Laura Ayers, is apparently the most beautiful woman in the world, a supermodel and business/fashion whiz. Virtually every man, and most of the women, are dumbstruck or driven to overwhelming lust upon laying eyes on her. Her body is mentioned about 4,000 times (although not graphically described, so voyeurs need not bother). Her love interest, David Baskin, a Boston Celtics forward, is the best basketball player in the history of the game. Laura’s sister, mother, aunt, and lead model are the 2nd through 5th most beautiful women in the world. Just your routine everyday group of pals and family, right? Baskin’s brother Stan is also handsome, but a sleazy con man and gambler. On Laura’s and David’s honeymoon in Australia David goes missing, apparently drowned in the surf. Or was it suicide? Or homicide? Or is he really dead? (Hint: did you notice the title? That’s how obvious his “mysteries” are.)
The book is horribly overwritten, but as I said, that’s typical Coben. He seems to have a thing for basketball players, or at least really tall people. His main characters in his later books are also very tall men. I’m guessing the author played some B-Ball or at least is a big fan.
The convoluted plot sets up several mysteries, all tied somehow to what happened 30 years earlier. There’s something going on between Laura’s mother and aunt and the Baskin men. David’s money goes missing. His best friend, a cop, seems loyal but a bit shady. Mysterious threats and break-ins occur. It’s all resolved in what is supposed to be a shocking twist ending, but it’s all rather predictable because the author telegraphs the twists so far in advance. Still, the action moves along fairly smartly and if you’re a high-school dropout you won’t have any trouble with the vocabulary or style. If you dislike the pottymouth style, avoid this one. I listened to the audiobook, and Scott Brick’s overacting didn’t help it any. I can’t recommend it, but it was okay to play solitaire by.