Fool me once

Harlan Coben, 1962-

Book - 2016

"#1 New York Times bestseller Harlan Coben delivers his next impossible-to-put-down thriller. In the course of eight consecutive #1 New York Times bestsellers, millions of readers have discovered Harlan Coben's page-turning thrillers, filled with his trademark edge-of-your-seat suspense and gut-wrenching emotion. In Fool Me Once, Coben once again outdoes himself. Former special ops pilot Maya, home from the war, sees an unthinkable image captured by her nanny cam while she is at work: her two-year-old daughter playing with Maya's husband, Joe--who had been brutally murdered two weeks earlier. The provocative question at the heart of the mystery: Can you believe everything you see with your own eyes, even when you desperatel...y want to? To find the answer, Maya must finally come to terms with deep secrets and deceit in her own past before she can face the unbelievable truth about her husband--and herself"--

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FICTION/Coben, Harlan
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Suspense fiction
Mystery fiction
New York, New York : Dutton [2016]
Main Author
Harlan Coben, 1962- (author)
Physical Description
390 pages ; 24 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by New York Times Review

THE WORLD IS a messy, chaotic place these days, full of new threats and unpredictable crises. As President Obama said during a 2014 fund-raising event, "Part of people's concern is just the sense that around the world the old order isn't holding." That may be bad news for politicians, but it has proved a boon to thriller writers. There are just so many potential threats to choose from! So many different ways to place a person - or people - in peril. And they are pretty much all on display in the panoply of offerings for summer escapism. Starting with the classic bad guys: the K.G.B. In THE 14TH COLONY (Minotaur, $27.99), Steve Berry summons the antiquarian bookseller and superspy Cotton Malone for the 11th time, now pitting him against similarly "retired" relics of the Soviet Union who hope to fulfill the promise of an unfinished Cold War conspiracy to destabilize the United States. Also present are Malone's usual cast of supporting characters: Stephanie Nelle, the head of the Magellan Billet (the Justice Department's endangered international investigative unit); her would-be boyfriend, the lame duck President Danny Daniels; Daniels's nephew, Luke, a Magellan Billet agent; and Malone's extraordinarily named, very wealthy, on-and-off love interest, the daredevil historical preservationist Cassiopeia Vitt. The characters aren't the only familiar touch here. Berry also returns to his favorite plot device: resurrecting a long-buried historical secret upon which potential disaster rests. The secret this time is a scenario first understood - and then hidden - by America's oldest fraternal organization, the Society of the Cincinnati. Turns out the founding fathers made one very big planning mistake: If the president and the vice president die at the same time on Inauguration Day before taking the oath of office, the result is a leaderless government and a constitutional crisis. For enemies of the state, that can mean only one thing: opportunity. According to "The 14th Colony," the old Soviets discovered the oversight, and their rogue agents have decided to finally take revenge on the United States for what is presented as the subterfuge cooked up between Ronald Reagan and the pope that led to the fall of the U.S.S.R. (Anyone not a fan of the 40th president is hereby warned that in this book, he's a genius.) Their weapons: decades-old nuclear suitcase bombs, which were hidden on American soil long ago, and sleeper agents. The suspense: Who will get to them first? The fact that the book is being published during an election year when we are about to have a lame duck president should make the worst-case scenario feel especially relevant, particularly with recent revelations about the real White House's meticulous transition planning in response to terrorism. But compared with the terrorists of today, Berry's villains are so creaky, they seem less threatening than quaint. Of course, there is an antagonist even more old-school than the Kremlin, and that is the Devil himself. He is the subject of Karen Hall's DARK DEBTS (Simon & Schuster, $27), a pulpy theological horror story that was a big hit when it was originally published in 1996 and that has been reissued this year with a new ending and newly fleshed-out characters. Included in the boiling pot - or plot - are a cursed blue-collar Georgia family consisting of the parents and four sons, though only one of the six survives the opening pages; a sexy former Jesuit priest who also works as a journalist; assorted other clergymen; small-town denizens of the sort who hang out in diners and trailer parks; a demon or two; and one beautiful reporter named Randa, who dates the surviving member of the ill-fated family (and who used to date his brother, until suicide intervened). The big questions range from the "who done it?" to the existential. Did the suicide victim actually kill himself, or did an evil force drive him to it? What is that force? What does God demand from his children? Unfortunately, Hall gives all of these questions equal weight, which tends to undermine the book's loftier philosophical aspirations, as does the presence of ye olde Devil-worshipping sex cult. In the end, this update is caught between its high and low impulses, and feels more like the rehashed "Exorcist" than like the moody first season of "True Detective." Its demons are predictable, down to their growling voices and evil laughs, especially in comparison with devils that may be closer to home - or actually in your home, or at least the home you married into. How much we really know those we love, and their families, is the subtext of Harlan Coben's latest roller coaster ride, FOOL ME ONCE (Dutton, $28) - though bad guys also make an appearance, including a WikiLeaks-style whistle-blower and a greedy industrial titan. Pick your poison. Maya Stern is a former special-ops helicopter pilot, now a suburban flight instructor and mother, who was forced out of the military when the whistle-blower posted a video online of her ordering an airstrike that killed a number of unarmed Iraqi civilians. As is the wont in such books, death follows her home, and the story opens with the murder of her husband, scion of a wealthy Establishment family, by masked gunmen. (It turns out her older sister was also a murder victim, killed before the book begins, when Maya was still in combat.) Left a single mother with a small child and some residual PTSD, Maya installs a nanny cam in her den, and the next thing you know, her dead husband shows up, alive and on video. The twists begin there and don't stop until all the murders add up, company fraud is exposed, the rot at the heart of a twisted family is revealed and the rug is entirely pulled out from under the reader. It's a good thing, because the effort required to pick your jaw up off the floor masks the thinness of the characters, who function more as plot devices than fully realized people. Granted, thrillers aren't generally considered a genre that prioritizes multidimensional protagonists. But as Elizabeth Brundage proves in the literary mystery ALL THINGS CEASE TO APPEAR (Knopf, $26.95), it doesn't need to be that way. Indeed, as much as anything, this is a character sketch: of a marriage, a sociopath, a family destroyed by the economy, the things we do for love - all finely drawn within the confined environment of a creaking old farmhouse on a homestead in a town far, far away. The better to scare you with, my dear. The story begins, once again, with a death - a gruesome one, involving an ax in a young mother's head - then cycles backward in time to how it happened, playing peekaboo with the motivations and history of its cast: the grieving widower, a professor at a local college; his lovely wife, a.k.a the victim; their young daughter; and the three damaged brothers who once lived in their home and act as their babysitters and renovation team, and whose parents committed suicide. All of the above are sympathetic and suspicious in equal measure, a result of Brundage's ability to peel away the onionskin layers of emotion that define any relationship. As the clues accumulate and the killer is revealed, the truth becomes both horrifying and inevitable. In the end, justice is done and redemption found, though not as one might expect, which makes the book all the more satisfying. Sometimes, as the cliché goes, we are our own worst enemies. And sometimes we work with them, as Will Rhodes discovers in THE TRAVELERS (Crown, $27). Rhodes is the hero of this book, Chris Pavone's third thriller, though "hero" may be a bit of a stretch. Pavone's great skill is in rendering believable people in impossible and occasionally absurd situations, and "The Travelers" is no exception. Indeed, it may involve his most far-fetched premise yet. Travel writers of the National Geographic-meets-Departures kind populate the book, with Will as the exemplar. He is the employee of a magazine called (surprise) Travelers: a man with a big expense account, a small salary, a mysterious boss who keeps disappearing into a hidden back room, and a disgruntled wife - who was also a Travelers writer until she left her job for "other opportunities," as yet unspecified. On a junket to French wine country Will meets a gorgeous Australian, and though he refrains from breaking his wedding vows, when he encounters her again on a trip to Argentina he gives in to temptation, an act that has some unexpected repercussions. Needless to say, no one's job is quite what readers might assume. Simply consider the fact that Travelers is a magazine where communications are delivered by hand, by couriers, in sealed envelopes, as opposed to email or mobile phone. And it seems to suffer not at all from the current economic malaise affecting its competitors, and for that matter old media in general. It's enough to make anyone raise an eyebrow. Turns out travel writing is great cover for all sorts of clandestine activity, both official and not, and Will gets sucked right in. He's almost determinedly naïve (one of the reasons he was hired, apparently, and the reader will guess what everyone is up to long before our hero does), though he also proves surprisingly adept at learning the particulars of self-defense, surreptitious photography and other illicit skills - as do many of his colleagues, who turn out to be not so deskbound after all. It's all highly entertaining and more than a little fantastic. But it's easy to suspend your disbelief in sheer enjoyment at Pavone's use of language, not to mention a James Bond-worthy itinerary that takes the otherwise ink-stained wretch from Brooklyn to Paris by way of Dublin, a Russian billionaire's yacht and a remote village in Iceland, as he evades a variety of secret-service types, enforcers and that even more frightening contemporary golem, the megalomaniac businessman. Titans of finance on the loose are, it turns out, pretty devious beings, but even more terrifying nowadays are germs, especially the kind that leap the species barrier. Those are the villains in Justin Cronin's trilogy about survival, faith and human spirit, "The Passage," which has finally drawn to its conclusion in THE CITY OF MIRRORS (Ballantine, $28), after six years, a Hollywood option and thousands of pages. The story of an outbreak that started as a military experiment gone awry, decimating the human population by turning it into vampires, and the heroic efforts of the few remaining survivors to remain human (literally and emotionally), it's pretty much "Twilight" meets the Bible meets "The Hot Zone." That sounds messy, but it has proved a surprisingly powerful formula. The final installment begins in the year 98 A.V. - After Virus - a time when the 12 original sources of infection, or apostles of destruction, have been killed thanks to a young Jesus figure named Amy, who sacrificed herself to save mankind. The surviving small community of humans, living in the Texas Republic, are beginning to feel complacent and let their guard down, clearly a sign that something is about to go wrong. Which, of course, it does. It turns out the vamps are not gone, merely biding their time, because the original carrier, the "Zero" who brought the disease from the jungles of Bolivia and started it all, has been hiding out in the ruins of Grand Central Terminal, nursing his grievances and preparing for a final battle. His great love was taken from him when he was still human, and he wants everyone to feel his pain; though it's not the most original motivation, it is effective. When Amy returns for the final showdown, to stand for and then with her friends, the lines between good and evil are blurred. It would be unfair to reveal who dies and who lives, but chances are you can guess the outcome of the last battle - though said battle is not itself the end of the book. Instead there is an epilogue after a coda after a conclusion, as if the author could not quite bring himself to say goodbye to the world he had imagined. That's understandable: Lengthy as the book is, it is also compulsively readable. In the end, a subplot involving the transformation of a giant shipwreck into a usable ark meant to take a small slice of humanity to a virus-free island off the coast of Australia provides resolution - or at least a reason for Cronin to fast-forward to 1003 A.V. Amy herself has become legend, giving rise to a sect of "Ammalites," scientists who study "The Book of Twelves" and a mystical finale that is both manipulative and strangely moving. By the time you've made your way through it, you'll never look at a bat in quite the same way again. Similarly, Rosamund Lupton's THE QUALITY OF SILENCE (Crown, $26), an eerie eco-tale of disasters both real and man-made on the frozen tundra of Alaska, may make you rethink the popular perception of snow as innocuous white fluffy stuff. The isolated woman on her own and in danger is standard thriller fare, but here it is given new life by geography, profession - the woman in question, Yasmin Alfredson, is an astrophysicist - and the addition of a deaf 10-year-old daughter. Yasmin has brought her child to Fairbanks from England to visit her husband, who has been making a documentary on Alaskan wildlife and living with a native tribe, but immediately after they land they are told he has been killed in a fire that wiped out the village. Refusing to believe the local authorities, sympathetic though they seem, Yasmin and her daughter embark on what becomes an epic journey in a stolen truck into the wilderness - and the politics of fracking - to track him down. It seems like a fool's adventure, except the alternating voices of mother and daughter are so compelling, it's hard not to want to go along for the ride. As they drive, pursued by another truck and with warnings of dire weather ahead, the book skates smoothly over issues of environmentalism, tribal rights and the relationship of the deaf and hearing worlds, including the question of what it means to have a "voice." The temperature drops, the action heats up and the suspense builds with the storm, speckled by alluring scientific tidbits on the subjects of stars and species. Following her own moral compass, Yasmin, it turns out, knew what she was doing all along, and the real criminals are those who disguise selfish intentions, both financial and personal, in the rhetoric of selflessness. Even a white-out can't hide the darkness within. It's a pointed reminder that between Soviets, viruses and sociopaths, it may be the unknown that is scariest of all. VANESSA FRIEDMAN is the fashion critic of The Times.

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [June 5, 2016]
Review by Booklist Review

Combat pilot Maya Burkett's last mission ended in tragedy, with civilians killed during a rescue of stranded soldiers. Now, in best-selling Coben's latest, she's settling into a new life with her husband, Joe, and two-year-old daughter, Lily until she witnesses her husband's murder. Suddenly a single mother, plagued by nightmares and PTSD, Maya accepts the gift of a nanny cam disguised as a picture frame to help her keep an eye on her daughter while she's at work. Her life seems calmer, until she checks the cam's video images and sees her husband. Could he really be alive? Or is someone trying to convince her she's losing her mind? The video galvanizes Maya, and she becomes a woman with a mission, armed and dangerous, as she looks for answers among dark secrets from the past. Coben excels in setting up the requisite whom-can-she-trust scenario. The pace never falters, buoyed by Maya's urgent investigations and the myriad plot twists, which keep readers off balance, wondering what's happening and whom to believe. Coben is one of those genre authors who has crossed over to mainstream popularity and just keeps building his brand. No changes here.--Saricks, Joyce Copyright 2016 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In his new thriller, a seemingly unsolvable puzzle isn't so unsolvable. Two weeks after witnessing her husband, Joe, murdered in Central Park, retired special-ops Army Captain Maya Stern consults her newly installed nanny cam and sees Joe enter their living room with their two-year-old daughter. Is it possible Joe survived? Is she losing her mind? Is someone trying to fool her? (The title gives that last one away.) The question becomes, who's trying to fool her, and why? Reader LaVoy does a masterly job of ginning up genuine suspense and adding much-needed heft to characters so gossamer they threaten to blow off the page. The author did make his protagonist, Maya, fully dimensional, but it's LaVoy's impassioned enactment of her trials and tribulations that makes the listener care what happens to her. A Dutton hardcover. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Maya Stern Burkett has known death. As a former army special ops pilot, she recognizes it's just part of the job, but in her civilian life she never expected to lose both her husband and her sister to murder. Though they each died at different times and under different circumstances, Maya is still forced to carry on as a single mother to her own daughter, Lily, and help raise her sister's two kids. She installs a nanny cam in her living room, disguised as a digital picture, and who does she see but her late husband playing with her daughter. Maya is thrown into a spiral of disbelief and becomes obsessed with finding answers. As she uncovers hard truths about her family and herself, Maya's life is in jeopardy, and time is running out. Verdict Coben (The Stranger) has done it again with this fast-paced smart thriller. Fans and those new to Coben will devour this stand-alone. [A March LibraryReads Pick.]-Cynthia Price, Francis Marion Univ. Lib., Florence, SC © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Coben (The Stranger, 2015, etc.) hits the bull's eye again with this taut tale of a disgraced combat veteran whose homefront life is turned upside down by an image captured by her nanny cam. Recent widows can't be too careful, and the day she buries the husband who was shot by a pair of muggers in Central Park, Maya Burkett installs a concealed camera in her home to keep an eye on Lily, her 2-year-old daughter, and her nanny, Isabella Mendez , while she's out at her job as a flight instructor. She's shocked beyond belief when she checks the footage and sees images of her murdered husband returned from the grave to her den. Confronted with the video, Isabella claims she doesn't see anything that looks like Joe Burkett, then blasts Maya with pepper spray and takes off with the memory card. Should Maya go to the police? They were no help when her sister, Claire, was killed in a home invasion while she was deployed in the Middle East, and she doesn't trust Roger Kierce, the NYPD homicide detective heading the investigation of Joe's murder. Besides, Maya's already juggling a heavy load of baggage. Whistle-blower Corey Rudzinski ended her military career when he posted footage of her ordering a defensive airstrike that killed five civilians, and she's just waiting for him to release the audio feed that would damage her reputation even more. So after Kierce drops a bombshellthe same gun was used to shoot both Joe and ClaireMaya launches her own investigation, little knowing that it will link both murders to the death more than 10 years ago of Joe's brother Andrew and the secrets the wealthy and powerful Burkett family has been hiding ever since. Once again, Coben marries his two greatest strengthsmasterfully paced plotting that leads to a climactic string of fireworks and the ability to root all the revelations in deeply felt emotionsin a tale guaranteed to fool even the craftiest readers a lot more than once. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Maya always woke up at exactly 4:58 a.m. Some claimed that she had one of those internal alarm clocks, but if she did, it could only be set for 4:58 a.m. and it couldn't be turned off, even nights she stayed up late and craved a few extra minutes of sleep, and if she tried to "set" the internal alarm even a few minutes earlier or later, it switched back to the default setting of 4:58 a.m. This has started during basic training. Her drill sergeant had a wake-up time of five a.m., and while most of her fellow recruits would groan or struggle, Maya had already been awake a full two minutes and was ready for the drill sergeant's imminent and rarely pleasant arrival. Once Maya had fallen asleep (read: passed out) last night, she had slept soundly. Oddly enough, whatever demons possessed her, they rarely came out in her sleep--no nightmares, no twisting of the sheets, no waking up in a cold sweat. Maya never remembered her dreams, which could mean that she slept peacefully or that whatever happened in those dreams, her subconscious was merciful enough to let her forget them. She grabbed her hair band from the night table and pulled her hair back into a ponytail. Joe had liked the ponytail. "I love your bone structure," he would say. "I want to see as much of your face as possible." He also liked to play with the ponytail and even, on some occasions, gently pull it, but that was another matter altogether. Her face flushed at the memory. Maya checked her phone for messages. Nothing important. She swung her legs out of bed and padded down the hallway. Lily was still sleeping. No surprise there. In the genetic internal alarm department, Lily was more like her father: Sleep until you absolutely have to rise. It was still dark outside. The kitchen still smelled of baking, obviously the handiwork of Isabella. Maya didn't cook, bake, or otherwise engage in culinary activities unless forced to. Many of her friends were big-time into cooking, which Maya found amusing, since for generations and indeed throughout pretty much the entire existence of mankind, cooking was considered a tedious and grueling chore one tried to avoid. In history books, you rarely read about monarchs or lords or anyone the slightest bit elite enjoying spending time in the kitchen. Eating? Sure. Fine dining and wine? Of course. But preparing the meals? That was a menial task given to lowly servants. Maya debated scrambling herself some eggs with a side of bacon, but the act of merely pouring milk atop cold cereal called out to her. She sat at the table and tried not think about the reading of Joe's will today. She didn't think that there would be any surprises. Maya had signed a prenup (Joe: "It's a family thing--if any of us Burketts don't sign, we get disinherited."), and once Lily was born, Joe had set it up so that in the event of his death, all his holdings would go into a trust for their daughter. Maya was happy enough with that. There was no cold cereal in the cabinet. Dang. Isabella had been complaining about the sugar content in them, but had she gone so far as to toss them? Maya headed back to the fridge and then stopped. Isabella. The nanny cam. She had woken up thinking about it, which was odd. Sure, she checked it most days, but not all. It never felt urgent to her. Nothing even the slightest bit questionable ever occurred. Maya normally kept the fast-forward button pressed down. Isabella was always sunny and happy, which was a bit troubling because that wasn't Isabella's default state. She did light up around Lily, but Isabella had a face like a totem pole. She wasn't big on smiling. Yet she always smiled on the nanny cam. She was the perfect nanny all the time, and let's face it--no one is that. No one. We all have our moments, don't we? Did Isabella know the nanny cam was there? Maya's laptop and the SD card reader Eileen had given her were in her backpack. For a while she had used her military-issue backpack--a beige nylon thing of many pockets--but too many military wannabes ordered the same thing online and something about it felt too showy. Joe had bought her a Kevlar laptop backpack from Tumi. She thought that it was overpriced, until she saw what those military wannabes paid for their backpacks online. She picked up the picture frame, pressed the button on the side, and took hold of the SD card. Suppose Isabella had figured it out. First off, would that be such a stretch? Not really. If you were at all perceptive--and Isabella was--you might wonder why your employer would suddenly buy a new picture frame. If you were at all perceptive--and, again, Isabella was--you might wonder why this new picture frame would show up for the first time on the day after you buried your murdered husband. Or if you were at all perceptive, you might not. Who knew? Maya slid the SD card into the reader and then plugged the reader into the USB port. Why was she feeling anxious about this? She had done this several times before and had seen nothing. Moreover, if her suspicions were correct, if Isabella had figured out that the new picture frame held more than a potpourri of family photographs, then, of course, all Maya would see would be Isabella on her best behavior. She wouldn't be dumb enough to do something suspicious. The whole idea of a hidden nanny cam was that it was hidden. Once a nanny knew about it, the whole enterprise became, at best, moot. She hit the play button. The video worked on a motion detector, so it started up when Isabella walked by carrying a cup of coffee in, of course, a mug with a protective lid. No chance any hot liquid would spill on a little girl's skin. Isabella picked Lily's stuffed giraffe off the floor and started to walk back to the kitchen and out of the frame. "Mommy." There was no audio with this camera, so Maya turned away and looked up the stairs at her daughter. A familiar warmth flowed through her. She might be cynical about so much of the parenting process, but that feeling when you look at your child, when the rest of the word fades away, when everything but that little face becomes just scenery in the deep background--that Maya understood. "Hey, precious." Maya read somewhere that the average two-year-old has a vocabulary of about fifty words. That seemed about right. "More" was a big one on the little-kid list. Maya hurried up the stairs and reached over the kid gate and lifted Lily into her arms. Lily clutched one of those indestructible cardboard books in both hands, this one of Dr. Seuss's classic One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. Lately she'd been carrying the book around the way some kids carry a teddy bear. A book rather than a stuffed animal--this pleased Maya to no end. "You want Mommy to read you the book?" Lily nodded. Maya brought her downstairs and sat her at the kitchen table. The video was still running. One thing Maya had learned: Little kids love repetition. They didn't want new experiences quite yet. Lily had a whole collection of cardboard books. Maya loved the narrative drive of the P. D. Eastman, books like Are You My Mother? or Fish Out of Water, both featuring scary moments and twist endings. Lily would listen--any book was better than no book--but she always returned to the rhymes and artwork of Dr. Seuss, and really, who could blame her? Maya glanced at the computer monitor as the nanny-cam video played on. On the screen, Lily and Isabella were both on the couch. Isabella fed Lily one Goldfish cracker at a time, like they were smelts awarded to a performing seal. Taking a cue from the feed, Maya grabbed the Goldfish down from the pantry and spread some out on the table. Lily started to eat them one at a time. "You want something else?" Lily shook her head and pointed to the book. "Read." "Not 'read.' Say, 'Please, Mommy, will you read . . .'" Maya stopped. Enough with the performing seal. She picked up the book, turned to page one, started with the one fish, two fish, turned the page. She was just reaching the fat fish with the yellow hat when something on the computer monitor snagged her gaze. Maya stopped reading. "More," Lily demanded. Maya leaned toward the screen. The camera had turned itself on again, but the view was completely blocked. But how . . . ? Maya guessed that she was staring at Isabella's back. Isabella was standing directly in front of the picture frame and that was the reason Maya couldn't see anything. No. Isabella was too short. Her head might block it. But her back? No way. Plus Maya could now make out color. Isabella had been wearing a red blouse yesterday. This shirt was green. Forest green. "Mommy?" "One second, honey." Whoever it was moved away from the picture frame and out of view. Now Maya could get a look at the couch. Lily sat on it alone. She held this very book in her hands, paging through it on her own, pretending to read it. Maya waited. From the left--the kitchen--someone stepped into view. Not Isabella. It was a man. At least it appeared to be a man. He was still standing close to the camera and at an angle that made it impossible to see his face. For a moment she figured that it might have been Hector, coming inside for a break maybe, grabbing a glass of water or something, but Hector had been wearing overalls and a sweatshirt. This guy was wearing blue jeans and a green-- --forest green shirt. . . . On the screen, Lily looked up from the couch toward the maybe-man. When she smiled widely at him, Maya felt a rock take form in her chest. Lily wasn't good with strangers. So whoever this was, whoever was wearing that familiar forest green shirt . . . The man started toward the couch. His back was to the camera now, blocking Maya's view of her daughter. Maya felt panic when her daughter was out of sight, actually leaning to the left and right as though she could see around this man and make sure that her daughter was still there, on the couch, safe with that same Dr. Seuss book. It felt as though her daughter was in danger and that danger would last until, at the very least, Maya could once again see her and keep an eye on her. The danger was, of course, nonsense. Maya knew that. She was watching something that had already happened, not a live feed, and her daughter was sitting next to her, healthy and seemingly happy, or at least she had been happy until her mom had gone silent and started staring at this compute screen. "Mommy?" "One second, honey, okay?" The man in the familiar blue jeans and forest green shirt--that was how he'd always described the shirt, not green or dark green or bright green but forest green--had obviously not harmed or snatched her daughter or anything like that, so the anxiety Maya was now experiencing seemed uncalled for and more than overblown. On the screen, the man moved to the side. Maya could see Lily again. She figured that the fear would subside now. But that wasn't what happened. The man turned and sat on the couch right next to Lily. He faced the camera and smiled. Somehow Maya didn't scream. Flex, relax, flex. . . . Maya, always cool in the battle, always managing to find someplace inside of her that made her pulse stay even and kept the adrenaline spikes from paralyzing her, tried to find that place now. The familiar clothes--the blue jeans and especially the forest green shirt--should have set her up for this possibility--and by possibility, she meant impossibility--of what she was now seeing. So she, yes, didn't scream out loud. She didn't gasp. There was instead a steady spreading across her chest that made it hard to breathe. There was a chilling in her veins. There was a small quiver in her lips. There, on the computer monitor, Maya watched Lily crawl onto the lap of her dead husband. Excerpted from Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.