The Barnes & Noble Review
Photographs are a way of putting memories on paper and, like memories, they can be precious -- or dangerous. For housewife Grace Lawson, the ordinary act of picking up a pack of family photos sets an extraordinary sequence of events in motion, and the danger builds momentum with every turn of the page.
Among prints of a happy family vacation is one photo that doesn't belong -- a picture taken 20 years ago of a group of strangers, including someone who looks remarkably like Grace's husband as a young man. Before Grace can get her husband to explain, he disappears; and her search for the truth behind this glimpse of an earlier time involves digging into past secrets and tragedies that trigger a deadly series of all-too-current events. In Just One Look, award-winning suspense writer Harlan Coben has created tantalizing and terrifying interconnected mysteries. Sue Stone
Mr. Coben is justly popular; he does a good job of riveting the reader.Janet Maslin
Coben's latest thriller (after No Second Chance) is a riveting, albeit perplexing, nightmare that finds hapless New Jersey wife and mother Grace Lawson dealing with an assortment of fearful developments, including a missing spouse, a terrifyingly adaptable hit man, deceitful friends, hidden agendas and ghosts from the past. Reader MacDuffie wisely takes her cues from Coben's prose. When he describes a policeman as "patronizing," she lends just the right vocal inflection to his lines, then quickly switches to the sarcastic tones of feisty Grace. And for the novel's most ingratiating character, Charlene Swain, MacDuffie's voice subtly shifts from vague to vital as the Percodan-popping, bored-to-tears housewife rises above her ennui to give Grace a helping hand in combating the wicked hit man Wu. Coben fills his thriller with unoriginal characters (including a murderer on death row, a rock-and-roller in comeback mode and a gentrified mobster with revenge on his mind), but MacDuffie's skillful interpretation brings the characters and action into sharp focus. Simultaneous release with the Dutton hardcover (Forecasts, Mar. 29). (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
What Alfred Hitchcock did with movies Harlan Coben does with novels: Seemingly innocent people get caught up in upending, mind-bending, mortally dangerous situations. This book begins with what appears to be an out-of-place encounter. A convicted murderer-for-hire requests a meeting with a federal prosecutor, who has no relation to the case. The killer makes a confession: Several years before he unintentionally murdered the prosecutor's sister. Until that point the prosecutor believed his sister had died in an accidental fire. The tale then jumps to the protagonist--a suburban housewife with two young kids and a great husband. She goes to pick up vacation photos at the local Photomat. One pic is strange--it was clearly taken many years before, and a woman's face is crossed out. The housewife suddenly realizes one of the people in the photo looks like her husband. He sees the photo when he gets home. He denies it's him, then leaves and never returns. We're hooked. (7 Jun 2004)
In Coben's latest (after No Second Chance), a snapshot turns a dedicated wife and mother's suburban fantasy life upside down. While flipping through a set of newly developed photographs, Grace Lawson comes across an old picture of four people, one of whom resembles her husband, Jack. When she shows him the photo, he denies being the person or knowing anyone involved. Later that night, with the photo in his possession, Jack flees the house and promptly vanishes. When Grace uncovers proof that one of the strangers in the picture is now dead, her picture-perfect life starts to unravel. With each thriller, Coben just gets better and better. His latest is terrifying on several levels, offering so many questions with intricate and complex answers. The pages fly until the last piece of the puzzle falls neatly into place. Just one look, and you will be hooked. For all fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/04; a Mystery Guild, Literary Guild, and BOMC main selection.] Jeff Ayers, Seattle P.L. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Suburban thriller from the prolific Coben (No Second Chance, 2002, etc.), about a perfect husband who disappears when a photo from the past shows up in the latest batch from the photomat. Perfectly in love since their romantic meeting in France 15 years earlier, Jack and Grace Lawson are living the suburban dream: Windstar, Saab, daughter, son. He makes lots of money, she makes lots of art. There is a teeny flaw. Grace limps. It's the scar she bears from the trauma she endured before the trip to France. There was this rock concert. Shots were fired. Panic. Deaths. Heroism. Cowardice. Badly mangled Grace made it out of a coma with a week or two of memory gone and a healthy dislike of big crowds. Suddenly the superperfect life she has built from the ruins has gone off the rails. Tucked in among a set of newly developed photos is a snap taken sometime in the '80s. It shows a group of young people, possibly hip for the decade, and one of the lads, while hairier and callower, is clearly Jack. The insertion could only have been at the hands of the slacker in the Kodak kiosk, but he's disappeared. And, upon viewing the photo, so has Jack, leaving Grace to ask that old reliable story-starting question: "Just who is this man I thought I knew?" Answers must be found quickly, for handsome Jack has been captured by a cold-blooded, sadistic, Korean killer and lies senseless in the boot of the stolen family minivan. Detective assistance comes from a rogue District Attorney, a wacky girlfriend, a lovelorn neighbor, a tough Jewish cop with a hole in his heart where his wife used to be, a shadowy, powerful mob guy whose son died at the rock concert, and possibly from Jimmy X, the rocker whose concertseems to have started the present subdivisional mayhem all those years ago. Tepid terrors along the way to a mildly surprising end. Agent: Aaron Priest/Aaron M. Priest Literary Agency
Praise for Just One Look
“The tension doesn't build slowly; it snaps and crackles right from the get-go…The only plausible reason for setting down this book is to make sure your front door is locked and double-bolted.”—People
“A nifty suspense premise...[Coben] does a good job of riveting the reader.”—The New York Times
“A heck of a ride.”—New York Daily News
“Coben twists story lines into psychological thrill rides. The pages flip so fast it’s a wonder you don’t develop paper cuts.”—The Orlando Sentinel
“There’s plenty of adrenalin-pumping stuff here, but it’s the walk down the hall of mirrors Coben does so well that rivets the attention.”—The Houston Chronicle
“Harlan Coben remains one of the best in the game...It’s one of those books in which the main character—and readers—have no real idea what’s going on until the very last pages. This is both highly satisfying and enjoyably frustrating, especially when the plot twists are being carefully doled out by a pro like Coben.”—The San Francisco Chronicle
“It’s only when the last page turns that the reader has a chance to breathe, say ‘Wow!’ and marvel at the impressively interconnected structure.”—The Miami Herald
“Coben proves his nimble, knowing grasp of plot and pace, juggling as many as seven plotlines while still imparting a healthy backstory to cameo characters. You’ll read it in a day, maybe two; it’s fresh fast food in a cup-of-ramen world.”—Entertainment Weekly