Harlan Coben "serves up everything you could ask for in a can't-put-it-down book...rocket-fast pace with solid emotional underpinning" (San Francisco Chronicle). Now, he returns with an explosive novel about the love of a father, in a story where nothing is what it seems-and where hope and fear collide in the most surprising ways.
When the first bullet hit my chest, I thought of my daughter…
Marc Seidman awakens to find himself in an ICU, hooked up to an IV, his head swathed in bandages. Twelve days earlier, he had an enviable life as a successful surgeon, living in a peaceful suburban neighborhood with his beautiful wife and a baby he adored. Now he lies in a hospital bed, shot by an unseen assailant. His wife has been killed, and his six-month-old daughter, Tara, has vanished. But just when his world seems forever shattered, something arrives to give Marc new hope: a ransom note.
We are watching. If you contact the authorities, you will never see your daughter again. There will be no second chance.
The note is chilling, but Marc sees only one thing-he has the chance to save his daughter. He can’t talk to the police or the FBI. He doesn’t know who he can trust. And now the authorities are closing in on a new suspect: Marc himself. Mired in a deepening quicksand of deception and deadly secrets-about his wife, about an old love he’s never forgotten, and about his own past-he clings to one, unwavering vow…to bring home Tara, at any cost.
Both a white-knuckle thriller and an emotionally powerful tale about the loyalty of old friends and the bond between parent and child, No Second Chance is another masterpiece from an author who writes “suspense at its finest” (Jeffrey Deaver).
|Publisher:||Books on Tape, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 1.50(h) x 5.00(d)|
About the Author
With more than seventy million books in print worldwide, Harlan Coben is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of thirty novels, including the Myron Bolitar series and a series aimed at young adults featuring Myron's newphew, Mickey Bolitar. His books are published in forty-three languages around the globe and have been number one bestsellers in more than a dozen countries. The winner of the Edgar, Shamus, and Anthony Awards, he lives in New Jersey.
Hometown:Ridgewood, New Jersey
Date of Birth:January 4, 1962
Place of Birth:Newark, New Jersey
Education:B.A. in political science, Amherst College, 1984
Read an Excerpt
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.
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.
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."
"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."
I tried harder, but nothing came. I shook my head. "I woke up once before. At night. I was here, I think."
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.
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.
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.
What People are Saying About This
"No Second Chance has a life of its own." —New York Times
"This crackling spellbinder will...keep you mesmerized from beginning...to 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
Another Hit for Harlen
Award-winning author Harlan Coben returns to the arena of obsession, conspiracy, and violence that characterized his previous novels (Tell No One, Gone for Good) for another edge-of-your-seat thriller, No Second Chance. Ransom Notes spoke with Coben about his distinctive approach to the mystery/suspense field.
Harlan Coben: I love suspense. I love stories that suck you in from page one and never let you go -- the kind where you're on vacation in, say, Paris or St. Tropez, but all you want to do is stay in your hotel room with that dang book.
That's what I want to write.
I don't tell stories about serial killers or conspiracies that reach the highest level of government. I prefer to play in the calmer waters of suburban America. I deal with what we all know -- the strange and powerful bonds of family. In that placid pool, a splash can ripple and reverberate in ways far more devastating and far more emotionally resonant.
In No Second Chance, I started out writing a story about a father's love. Why? Well, maybe because I have four children of my own, ages nine, five, three, and one.
Ransom Notes: You've got people in this story doing violent and illegal things, for a variety of motives. How would you describe the difference between villains and "good guys"?
HC: The line between good and evil is like the foul line at a baseball game. It's flimsy. It's impermanent. Sometimes you cross that line, just for a second, just because you have to. But if you do that often enough, the line blurs to the point where you almost can't see it anymore, to the point where fair is foul, and foul is fair. That's the part of the field I like to play in.
RN: Why do you think losing fame made the villain, Lydia, willing to do such terrible things?
HC: Fame is a drug. There are painfully few who can resist its pull, and even fewer who are willing to give it up. And, like many drugs, there are lifelong effects. I thought that would be an interesting thing to explore in No Second Chance.
RN: How did you research Marc's medical background?
HC: My wife, Anne, is a pediatrician, one of the top trained in the country (I'm allowed to brag -- she's my wife). She is a wonderful resource. We also, naturally, know many doctors I could talk to about medical matters.
RN: What's the best way for readers to find out more about your books, past and future?
HC: Answers to many questions about my books can be found at Frequently Asked Questions on my web site, harlancoben.com. I enjoy hearing from readers. If I can talk at you for several hundred pages in a book, you should be able to jot off a paragraph or two to me. So feel free to email me at email@example.com. I try to answer everyone, though it sometimes takes a while.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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!)
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
One of the best books I've read in a while. Loved it! Looking forward to reading more of his books!
A great read, I look forward to more books by him!
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.
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.
Great book to enjoy on the beach or by the pool
I really enjoyed reading this book.
Read during breaks at work, and since I use public transportation, takes your mind off the long ride home.
It's been a while since I read a book I couldn't put down!
Another thrilling story!
Excellent! Suspenseful and not want to out it down type of book
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.