Some mistakes can change your life forever. The horror of one night is forever etched in Matt Hunter's memory: the night he innocently tried to break up a fight-and ended up a killer. Now, nine years after his release from prison, his innocence long forgotten, he's an ex-con who takes nothing for granted. With his wife, Olivia, pregnant and the two of them closing on a house in his home town, things are looking up. Until the day Matt gets a shocking, inexplicable video call from Olivia's phone. And in an instant, the unraveling begins.
Coben seems to delight in making bad things happen to good people (Tell No One; Gone for Good; etc.), and he does it again in this, his best book to date. A paralegal, devoted husband and soon-to-be father, Matt Hunter has a not-so-secret past: when he was 20, in an attempt to break up a fistfight, he killed a man and served four years in prison for it. He's been out five years, living in his New Jersey hometown, and life is pretty good. But when his beloved wife, Olivia, goes away on a business trip, he receives 15 seconds of digital video on his camera phone showing her in a hotel room with another man. Meanwhile, Loren Muse, Essex County homicide investigator, is working on an unusual case: an autopsy of a nun reveals breast implants, which hint at a previous, not so holy life. After the FBI is called in, evidence links Matt to the nun killing. Like all of Coben's stand-alone thrillers, this is a long, extremely complex tale with plenty of gunfire, betrayals, late-night chases and good people forced to go on the lam. All the characters have extensive, interesting histories, which makes their actions believable under the extreme circumstances that engulf them. Some readers have felt that Coben has been treading water with his last two outings, but this one should re-establish his credentials. Major ad/promo. (Apr. 26)
Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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June 30, 2005
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Excerpt from The Innocent by Harlan Coben
THE DOORBELL JANGLED Kimmy Dale out of her dreamless sleep.
She stirred in her bed, groaned, checked the digital clock next to her bed.
Despite it being solidly midday, the trailer remained night-dark. That was how Kimmy liked it. She worked nights and was a light sleeper. Back in her Vegas headlining days it had taken years of testing shades, blinds, curtains, shutters, sleeping blindfolds, before she found a combination that could truly keep the branding-iron Nevada sun from niggling at her slumber. The Reno rays were less relentless, but they still searched and exploited even the smallest sliver.
Kimmy sat up in her king-size bed. The television, a no-name model she'd bought used when a local motel finally decided to upgrade, was still on with the volume off. The images floated ghostly in some distant world. She slept alone right now, but that was a condition in constant flux. There was a time when each visitor, each prospective mate, brought hope with them to this bed, brought a this-could-be-the-one optimism that, in hindsight, Kimmy realized, bordered on the delusional.
There was no such hope anymore.
She rose slowly. The swelling on her chest from her most recent cosmetic surgery ached with the movement. It was her third procedure in the area, and she wasn't a kid anymore. She hadn't wanted to do it, but Chally, who thought he had an eye for such things, had insisted. Her tips were getting low. Her popularity was waning. So she agreed. But the skin in that area had become too stretched out from past surgical abuse. When Kimmy lay on her back, the damn things fell to the side and looked like fish eyes.
The doorbell rang again.
Kimmy looked down at her ebony legs. Thirty-five years old, never had a baby, but the varicose veins were growing like feeding worms. Too many years on her feet. Chally would want those worked on too. She was still in shape, still had a pretty great figure and terrific ass, but hey, thirty-five is not eighteen. There was some cellulite. And those veins. Like a damn relief map.
She stuck a cigarette in her mouth. The book of matches came from her current place of employment, a strip joint called the Eager Beaver. She had once been a headliner in Vegas, going by the stage name Black Magic. She did not long for those days. She did not, in truth, long for any days.
Kimmy Dale threw on a robe and opened her bedroom door. The front room had no such sun protection. The glare assaulted her. She shielded her eyes and blinked. Kimmy did not have a lot of visitors ' she never tricked at home ' and figured that it was probably a Jehovah's Witness. Unlike pretty much everybody else in the free world, Kimmy did not mind their periodic intrusions. She always invited the religiously rapt into her home and listened carefully, envious that they had found something, wishing she could fall for their line of bull. As with the men in her life, she hoped that this one would be different, that this one would be able to convince her and she'd be able to buy into it.
She opened the door without asking who it was.
"Are you Kimmy Dale "
The girl at the door was young. Eighteen, twenty, something like that. Nope, not a Jehovah's Witness. Didn't have that scooped-out-brain smile. For a moment Kimmy wondered if she was one of Chally's recruits, but that wasn't it. The girl wasn't ugly or anything, but she wasn't for Chally. Chally liked flash and glitter.