No Second Chance

No Second Chance

4.4 149
by Harlan Coben

View All Available Formats & Editions

When the first bullet hit my chest, I thought of my daughter...

Dr. Marc Seidman has been shot twice, his wife has been murdered, and his six-month-old daughter has been kidnapped. When he gets the ransom note-he knows he has only one chance to get this right. But there is nowhere he can turn and no one he can trust.  See more details below


When the first bullet hit my chest, I thought of my daughter...

Dr. Marc Seidman has been shot twice, his wife has been murdered, and his six-month-old daughter has been kidnapped. When he gets the ransom note-he knows he has only one chance to get this right. But there is nowhere he can turn and no one he can trust.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"No Second Chance has a life of its own." —New York Times

"This crackling spellbinder will...keep you mesmerized from head-spinning, unexpected end." —Forbes

"Coben again keeps the reader off-balance with innovative story lines and diabolical bad guys." —People

"Thrillers as satisfying as No Second Chance clearly have the Coben stamp." —Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

The Barnes & Noble Review
Harlan Coben returns to the arena of obsession, conspiracy, and violence that make his novels (Tell No One, Gone for Good) such edge-of-your-seat thrillers. Once again, his plot begins with an explosive scene of suburban outrage that leads a sympathetic, everyman hero into ever deeper trials and terrors: Marc Seidman's life becomes a nightmare when he's shot in the chest in the kitchen of his own home. Awakening from a coma almost two weeks later, he discovers that his wife has been murdered and his infant daughter is missing. It takes so long for a ransom note -- which warns that there will be "no second chance" -- to arrive, Marc and the police are uncertain about the kidnappers true intentions. Those intentions do not become clear to anyone -- including the reader -- until the very last pages of the book, after a constantly surprising series of plot twists carries the narrative through another year and a half in Marc's desperate quest to find his daughter. Coben hasn't only given us a masterwork of suspense, he's also written one of the most complex and elaborate novels of his career -- a book so compelling, ingenious, and disturbing you'll want to finish it in one sitting. Tom Piccirilli

The New York Times
True, that proclivity for self-analysis promises a story paced like downhill molasses. But this time Mr. Coben's plotting skills are in vigorous form, and he has devised a cleverly intricate scheme surrounding Tara's disappearance. Though he specializes in missing persons and mixed-up identities, to the point where his previous two thrillers (Tell No One and Gone for Good) had some overlap, the nimble and ingenious No Second Chance has a life of its own. — Janet Maslin
Publishers Weekly
Supercharged by a father's fierce drive to rescue his kidnapped daughter, Coben's third stand-alone thriller proves far more gripping than his second, Tell No One. Marc Seidman, a plastic surgeon near New York City, wakes up in a hospital to learn that he has been gravely wounded, his wife shot dead and his infant daughter, Tara, snatched. The ensuing narrative, which shuttles between third person and Marc's first person, covers more than a year in Marc's hunt for Tara and climaxes twice with his fumbling of payments in response to ransom demands, plunging him into despair. A smartly drawn supporting cast supports Marc in his quest, including an old girlfriend-an ex-FBI agent-who reappears in his life; Marc's lawyer, who's also his best friend; a cop/FBI duo who for a while suspect Marc of engineering the snatch and ransom demands; and a working-class hero who joins forces with Marc near the end of his hunt and steals every scene he's in. On the villain's side lurk several shady folk, including a psychopathic former child star and her hulking boyfriend. The plot is overly complicated, and there's a revelation at book's end that veteran thriller readers will have sussed out long before. Those flaws matter little, though, in the face of the emotional onslaught of Marc's gut-wrenching, self-questioning, relentless narration, which will carry readers like a tidal wave through the novel's twists and turns. What Coben's thriller lacks in originality, it makes up for in sheer vigor; few browsers or dippers will put this down. (Apr. 28) Forecast: Dutton is seriously behind this book, and Coben may get an extra push with Tell No One in pre-production at Columbia Pictures, with Michael Apted scheduled to direct. Look for this to be Coben's bestselling novel yet, with a real shot at making premier national lists in hardcover. Simultaneous Penguin Audio Book; BOMC, Doubleday Book Club and Mystery Guild Main Selection; featured alternate of the Literary Guild. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Forbes Magazine
This crackling spellbinder will not only keep you mesmerized from beginning--"When the first bullet hit my chest, I thought of my daughter. At least, that is what I want to believe."--to head-spinning, unexpected end, but will also ameliorate a lot of your personal relationship challenges. Talkative mother-in-law? Give her this, and you'll have a few blessed hours of peace. Adolescents complaining of boredom? No Second Chance will pump their adrenaline more than any computer game or forbidden substance ever could. Even your tired, cranky spouse will look at you with grateful new eyes after reading this Hitchcockesque, high-velocity tale that you so thoughtfully gave. (7 Jul 2003)
—Steve Forbes
Library Journal
A surgeon finds himself in intensive care after a brutal assault, with his wife dead and his baby daughter gone. Then the ransom note arrives.
Kirkus Reviews
Once again, Coben (Gone for Good, 2002, etc.) expertly tugs at a suburban citizen’s most ordinary fears until he finds a mind-boggling criminal conspiracy at the other end of the line. Pediatric reconstructive surgeon Marc Seidman’s family life ends with two shots into his body and another into his wife Monica’s, leaving her as dead as Marc was supposed to be. When he awakens 12 days later, he learns that his baby girl Tara has disappeared from his home as well. There’s a ransom demand, and Monica’s wealthy, remote father is happy to pay the freight, but Marc ignores Edgar Portman’s wishes, tips off the police and the FBI, and loses the money, any hope of recovering Tara, and his crackhead sister Stacy, who dies of an overdose soon after the cops tie her to the abduction. Eighteen months later, though, the kidnappers give Marc the second chance they swore they wouldn’t: For another $2 million, they’ll return Tara, whose hair samples they’ve already sent to her grandfather. And now Marc has a new ally, his college girlfriend Rachel Mills, a former FBI agent who just happens to have turned up again. If you think Marc and Rachel will outfox the kidnappers this time around, you don’t know Coben, who’s looking way past the second abortive ransom drop to a racket that entangles a washed-up child TV star, the protector she met in the loony bin, an improbably successful adoption lawyer, and assorted Serbian extras. And just in case these malefactors aren’t enough, he casts suspicion on Dina Levinsky, the abused girl who used to live in Marc’s house; on Rachel (how did her husband get shot to death?); and even on Marc himself (why were he and Monica shot with two different weapons?). Irresistiblyoverstuffed. Coben has blossomed into the male Mary Higgins Clark. Mystery Guild/Book-of-the-Month Club/Doubleday Book Club main selection; Literary Guild alternate selection. Agents: Lisa Erbach Vance, Aaron Priest/Aaron Priest Agency

Read More

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.25(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter I

When the first bullet hit my chest, I thought of my daughter. At least, that is what I want to believe. I lost consciousness pretty fast. And, if you want to get technical about it, I don't even remember being shot. I know that I lost a lot of blood. I know that a second bullet skimmed the top of my head, though I was probably already out by then. I know that my heart stopped. But I still like to think that as I lay dying, I thought of Tara.

FYI: I saw no bright light or tunnel. Or if I did, I don't remember that either.

Tara, my daughter, is only six months old. She was lying in her crib. I wonder if the gunfire frightened her. It must have. She probably began to cry. I wonder if the familiar albeit grating sound of her cries somehow sliced through my haze, if on some level I actually heard her. But again I have no memory of it.

What I do remember, however, was the moment Tara was born. I remember Monica-that's Tara's mother-bearing down for one last push. I remember the head appearing. I was the first to see my daughter. We all know about life's forks in the road. We all know about opening one door and closing another, life cycles, the changes in seasons. But the moment your child is born... it's beyond surreal.

You have walked through a Star Trek-like portal, a full-fledged reality transformer. Everything is different. You are different, a simple element hit with a startling catalyst and metamorphosed into one far more complex. Your world is gone; it shrinks down to the dimensions of-in this case, anyway-a six-pound fifteen-ounce mass.

Fatherhood confuses me. Yes, I know that with only six months on the job, I am an amateur. My best friend, Lenny, has four kids. A girl and three boys. His oldest, Marianne, is ten, his youngest just turned one. With his face permanently set on happily harried and the floor of his SUV permanently stained with congealed fast food, Lenny reminds me that I know nothing yet. I agree.

But when I get seriously lost or afraid in the realm of raising a child, I look at the helpless bundle in the crib and she looks up at me and I wonder what I would not do to protect her. I would lay down my life in a second. And truth be told, if push came to shove, I would lay down yours too.

So I like to think that as the two bullets pierced my body, as I collapsed onto the linoleum of my kitchen floor with a half-eaten granola bar clutched in my hand, as I lay immobile in a spreading puddle of my own blood, and yes, even as my heart stopped beating, that I still tried to do something to protect my daughter.

I came to in the dark.

I had no idea where I was at first, but then I heard the beeping coming from my right. A familiar sound. I did not move. I merely listened to the beeps. My brain felt as if it'd been marinated in molasses. The first impulse to break through was a primitive one: thirst. I craved water. I had never known a throat could feel so dry. I tried to call out, but my tongue had been dry-caked to the bottom of my mouth. A figure entered the room. When I tried to sit up, hot pain ripped like a knife down my neck. My head fell back. And again, there was darkness.

When I awoke again, it was daytime. Harsh streaks of sunlight slashed through the venetian blinds. I blinked through them. Part of me wanted to raise my hand and block the rays, but exhaustion would not let the command travel. My throat was still impossibly parched.

I heard a movement and suddenly there was someone standing over me. I looked up and saw a nurse. The perspective, so different from the one I was used to, threw me. Nothing felt right. I was supposed to be the one standing looking down, not the other way around. A white hat-one of those small, harshly triangular numbers-sat like a bird's nest on the nurse's head. I've spent a great deal of my life working in a wide variety of hospitals, but I'm not sure I've ever seen a hat like that outside of TV or the movies. The nurse was heavyset and black.

"Dr. Seidman?"

Her voice was warm maple syrup. I managed a very slight nod.

The nurse must have read minds because she already had a cup of water in her hand. She put the straw between my lips and I sucked greedily.

"Slow down," she said gently.

I was going to ask where I was, but that seemed pretty obvious. I opened my mouth to find out what had happened, but again she was one step ahead of me.

"I'll go get the doctor," she said, heading for the door. "You just relax now."

I croaked, "My family ..."

"I'll be right back. Try not to worry."

I let my eyes wander about the room. My vision had that medicated, shower-curtain haze. Still, there were enough stimuli getting through to make certain deductions. I was in a typical hospital room. That much was obvious. There was a drip bag and IV pump on my left, the tube snaking down to my arm. The fluorescent bulbs buzzed almost, but not quite, imperceptibly. A small TV on a swinging arm jutted out from the upper right-hand corner.

A few feet past the foot of the bed, there was a large glass window. I squinted but could not see through it. Still, I was probably being monitored. That meant I was in an ICU. That meant that whatever was wrong with me was something pretty bad.

The top of my skull itched, and I could feel a pull at my hair. Bandaged, I bet. I tried to check myself out, but my head really did not want to cooperate. Dull pain quietly boomed inside me, though I couldn't tell from where it originated. My limbs felt heavy, my chest encased in lead.

"Dr. Seidman?"

I flicked my eyes toward the door. A tiny woman in surgical scrubs complete with the shower cap stepped into the room. The top of the mask was untied and dangled down her neck. I am thirty-four years old. She looked about the same.

"I'm Dr. Heller," she said, stepping closer. "Ruth Heller." Giving me her first name. Professional courtesy, no doubt. Ruth Heller gave me a probing stare. I tried to focus. My brain was still sluggish, but I could feel it sputtering to life.

"You are at St. Elizabeth Hospital," she said in a properly grave voice.

The door behind her opened and a man stepped inside. It was hard to see him clearly through the shower-curtain haze, but I don't think I knew him. The man crossed his arms and leaned against the wall with practiced casualness. Not a doctor, I thought. You work with them long enough, you can tell.

Dr. Heller gave the man a cursory glance and then she turned her full attention back to me.

"What happened?" I asked.

"You were shot," she said. Then added: "Twice."

She let that hang for a moment. I glanced toward the man against the wall. He hadn't moved. I opened my mouth to say something, but Ruth Heller pressed on. "One bullet grazed the top of your head. The bullet literally scraped off your scalp, which, as you probably know, is incredibly rich with blood."

Yes, I knew. Serious scalp wounds bled like beheadings. Okay, I thought, that explained the itch on top of my head. When Ruth Heller hesitated, I prompted her. "And the second bullet?" Heller let out a breath. "That one was a bit more complicated."

I waited.

"The bullet entered your chest and nicked the pericardial sac. That caused a large supply of blood to leak into the space between your heart and the sac. The EMTs had trouble locating your vital signs. We had to crack your chest-" "Doc?" the leaning man interrupted-and for a moment, I thought he was talking to me.

Ruth Heller stopped, clearly annoyed. The man peeled himself off the wall. "Can you do the details later? Time is of the essence here." She gave him a scowl, but there wasn't much behind it. "I'll stay here and observe," she said to the man, "if that's not a problem."

Dr. Heller faded back and now the man loomed over me. His head was too big for his shoulders so that you feared his neck would collapse from the weight of it. His hair was crew cut all around, except in the front, where it hung down in a Caesar line above his eyes. A soul patch, an ugly smear of growth, sat on his chin like a burrowing insect. All in all, he looked like a member of a boy band gone to serious seed.

He smiled down at me, but there was no warmth behind it. "I'm Detective Bob Regan of the Kasselton Police Department," he said. "I know you're confused right now."

"My family-" I began.

"I'll get to that," he interrupted. "But right now, I need to ask you some questions, okay? Before we get into the details of what happened."

He waited for a response. I tried my best to clear the cobwebs and said,


"What's the last thing you remember?"

I scanned my memory banks. I remembered waking up that morning, getting dressed. I remembered looking in on Tara. I remembered turning the knob on her black-n-white mobile, a gift from a colleague who insisted it would help stimulate a baby's brain or something. The mobile hadn't moved or bleated out its tinny song. The batteries were dead. I'd made a mental note to put in new ones. I headed downstairs after that.

"Eating a granola bar," I said.

Regan nodded as if he'd expected this answer. "You were in the kitchen?"

"Yes. By the sink."

"And then?"

I tried harder, but nothing came. I shook my head. "I woke up once before. At night. I was here, I think."

"Nothing else?"

I reached out again but to no avail. "No, nothing."

Regan flipped out a pad. "Like the doc here told you, you were shot twice. You have no recollection of seeing a gun or hearing a shot or anything like that?"


"That's understandable, I guess. You were in a bad way, Marc. The EMTs thought you were a goner."

My throat felt dry again. "Where are Tara and Monica?"

"Stay with me, Marc."

Regan was staring down at the pad, not at me. I felt the dread begin to press down on my chest.

"Did you hear a window break?"

I felt groggy. I tried to read the label on the drip bag to see what they were numbing me with. No go. Pain medication, at the very least. Probably morphine in the IV pump. I tried to fight through the effects. "No," I said.

"You're sure?

We found a broken window near the rear of the house. It may have been how the perpetrator gained entry."

"I don't remember a window breaking," I said. "Do you know who-"

Regan cut me off. "Not yet, no. That's why I'm here asking these questions. To find out who did this." He looked up from his pad.

"Do you have any enemies?"

Did he really just ask me that? I tried to sit up, tried to gain some sort of angle on him, but there was no way that was going to happen. I did not like being the patient, on the wrong end of the bed, if you will. They say doctors make the worst patients. This sudden role reversal is probably why.

"I want to know about my wife and daughter."

"I understand that," Regan said, and something in his tone ran a cold finger across my heart. "But you can't afford the distraction, Marc. Not right yet. You want to be helpful, right? Then you need to stay with me here." He went back to the pad.

"Now, what about enemies?"

Arguing with him any further seemed futile or even harmful, so I grudgingly acquiesced. "Someone who would shoot me?"


"No, no one."

"And your wife?"

His eyes settled hard on me. A favorite image of Monica-her face lighting up when we first saw Raymondkill Falls, the way she threw her arms around me in mock fear as the water crashed around us-rose like an apparition.

"Did she have enemies?"

I looked at him. "Monica?"

Ruth Heller stepped forward. "I think that might be enough for now."

"What happened to Monica?" I asked.

Dr. Heller met up with Detective Regan, standing shoulder to shoulder. Both looked at me. Heller started to protest again, but I stopped her.

"Don't give me this protect-the-patient crap,"

I tried to shout, fear and fury battling against whatever had put my brain in this fuzz. "Tell me what happened to my wife."

"She's dead," Detective Regan said.

Just like that. Dead. My wife. Monica. It was as if I hadn't heard him. The word couldn't reach me.

"When the police broke into your home, you had both been shot. They were able to save you. But it was too late for your wife. I'm sorry."

There was another quick flash now-Monica at Martha's Vineyard, on the beach, tan bathing suit, that black hair whipping across those cheekbones, giving me the razor-sharp smile. I blinked it away.

"And Tara?"

"Your daughter,"

Regan began with a quick throat-clear. He looked at his pad again, but I don't think he planned on writing anything down. "She was home that morning, correct? I mean, at the time of the incident?"

"Yes, of course. Where is she?"

Regan closed the pad with a snap. "She was not at the scene when we arrived."
My lungs turned to stone.

"I don't understand."

"We originally hoped that maybe she was in the care of a family member or friend. A baby-sitter even, but..." His voice faded.

"Are you telling me you don't know where Tara is?"

There was no hesitation this time. "Yes, that's correct."

It felt as if a giant hand were pushing down on my chest. I squeezed my eyes shut and fell back.

"How long?" I asked.

"Has she been missing?"


Dr. Heller started speaking too quickly.

"You have to understand. You were very seriously injured. We were not optimistic you would survive. You were on a respirator. A lung collapsed. You also contracted sepsis. You're a doctor, so I know I don't have to explain to you how serious that is. We tried to slow down the meds, help you wake up-"

"How long?" I asked again.

She and Regan exchanged another glance, and then Heller said something that ripped the air out of me all over again.

"You've been out for twelve days."

—Reprinted from No Second Chance by Harlan Coban by permission of Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright © 2003, Harlan Coban. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

Read More

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"No Second Chance has a life of its own." —New York Times

"This crackling spellbinder will...keep you mesmerized from head-spinning, unexpected end." —Forbes

"Coben again keeps the reader off-balance with innovative story lines and diabolical bad guys." —People

"Thrillers as satisfying as No Second Chance clearly have the Coben stamp." —Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

No Second Chance 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 149 reviews.
Mika_Starwalker More than 1 year ago
Dr. Marc Siedman is shot, and nearly murdered, his wife is murdered and his 6 month old daughter, Tara, is missing. Marc recovers from his physical wounds, but not the emotional one of losing his daughter. The police, unfortunately, like him for the murder, and think he set the whole thing up. Lenny, Marc's best friend (from childhood), and bulldog lawyer comes to the rescue. Rachel, an old flame of Marc's winds up helping him follow the money. The author manages to mix in mental illness in an interesting light, the white slave trade and some of the factors which support it, he helps bust up the redneck stereotype, and helps us consider what a best friend will do and how it will affect us. Very well woven, and a big plus to this author. I've read other of his books, but not any of the ones in the recommend list (but I will very likely go buy and read them!)
The_Iceman More than 1 year ago
Marc Seidman comes to in the hospital to learn that he has recovered from a near fatal gunshot wound. His wife is dead and his daughter, Tara, is missing, apparently having been kidnapped. When the kidnappers demand a $2 million ransom they also warn Seidman that his daughter will be killed if he notifies the police. They are adamant that there will be "No Second Chance". Torn between the love of his daughter and the logic that suggests his chances of recovering her are better with the help of the authorities, he brings them in against the warning of the kidnappers. The exchange is botched, the money disappears and Seidman is sure that his daughter has been killed. But eighteen months later, just as life is settling to a semblance of normalcy, Seidman is given the second chance that the kidnappers swore he couldn't have. A demand note for another $2 million ransom surfaces. The police, on the other hand, are now looking at Seidman as the number one suspect in the kidnapping of his own daughter and they think he's scamming his deceased wife's father for the ransom. Despite a promising plot, convincing dialogue that comes easily off the tongue, a satisfying cast of complex well-built characters and some easy-reading action that does keep the pages turning, I found myself strangely unsatisfied. At the end of the novel, I found the highest compliment that I could pay Coben was to call "No Second Chance" workmanlike and reasonably well-constructed. Like the previous Harlan Coben novel that I read, "Just One Look", I found the plot to be needlessly twisted and complex with just a few too many layers of details. Not that the plot was difficult to follow, more that it was difficult to swallow if you understand the difference. Recommended. I'm sure Coben fans will enjoy it but I confess I'm not running to the bookstore to stock up on other Harlan Coben titles. Paul Weiss
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was quiet disapointed with this one. I can ususally get right into his books. However, I couldn't seem to understand why it took up to chapter 34 before it got exciting. I also couldn't understand why the author felt it necessary to go into constant detail when describing something that really had nothing to do with the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sorry, Harlan Coben just couldn't get into this book. I kept reading to see if it got any better but just couldn't get into it. Not one of his best books. Of course I'll keep reading his books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Stayed up all night to finish this book! I just couldn't put it down. Lots of twists and turns. This is my first book by Harlan Coben and I am excited to read more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I've read in a while. Loved it! Looking forward to reading more of his books!
FanPM More than 1 year ago
A great read, I look forward to more books by him!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Harlan Coben is a master at what he does. I bought this book on a Wednesday and finished it on Sunday. I absolutely could not put it down. I've read quite a few of his books, and this was probably the best so far. Genius.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Read during breaks at work, and since I use public transportation, takes your mind off the long ride home.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great book to enjoy on the beach or by the pool
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book overly contrived. I also found it overly descriptive and forced. Didn't like the jumps from 1st person to 3rd person throughout the book either. I think I would have liked it better if it was all in 3rd. I had the 'who's' pretty much figured out about a 1/4 of the way into it, and was so very close in the 'whys'. As I got to the end of the book I discovered that I really didn't care anymore about the doc's plight. I didn't like Dr. Marc. I felt nothing for him as a grieving father. He came off as arrogant and unsympathic to me. The villans on the other hand I liked a lot more. I also enjoyed secondary character Verne so much more than the doc. I wish the secondary characters & villans were more fleshed out. This was my first Coben novel, and I've been told that 'Tell No One' and 'Gone for Good' are better, so I'll read those and see if it's just this book I didn't really like, or if it's Coben's style. This book, though, I wouldn't recommend.
Anonymous 15 days ago
Another thrilling story!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
shr More than 1 year ago
Excellent! Suspenseful and not want to out it down type of book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a fast paced, twist and turn kind of book. It did start to drag on and i kept wishing the author would just get to the end already instead of having more "chase" scenes. I did figure out part of the ending about 3/4 the way through, but it did throw me a curve ball at the end. It was a good night time read-in-bed type of book. This is my first book by this author and i think i will try one more of his to get a better feel of if i really like this author or not.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
From the first two sentences of the book, I could not put it down. Every chapter ending demanded I continue reading on into the next chapter. This was the very first time I read any of Coben's books, and by the end of it, I was a new loyal fan. Great story line. Great writing! I now read all of his books.
Blisseth More than 1 year ago
After reading one of his other books, I loved the way he wrote so I also decided to read No Second Chance. There's a lot of suspense and unexpected events that occur. I couldn't put this book down-it was a great read.