on 30 July 2004
After the formidable "No Second Chance" I just had to check out Coben's latest release. My lovely looking hardback arrived and sat on the 'waiting to be read' shelf for a few weeks before I finally found the time to open the front cover.
360 pages and an entire afternoon later the book was complete and I was exhausted. Not just because I'd spent almost the best part of a day reading, but this book is one hell of a roller-coaster that will keep you guessing and second guessing right until the end.
Throughout the course of the book you'll be introduced to a range of characters, none of which you will be entirely certain about and your opinion will undoubtedly change time and time again. The book moves along at a relentless pace and is sure to keep the reader engrossed right until the story finally ends.
The plot has a lot more depth to it than you would first appreciate, and offers a lot more than the normal blurb would suggest. The people, places and scenarios are wonderfully descriptive and there are a number of plot twists and surprises in store for the lucky reader when they take time to indulge themselves in what is undoubtedly one of the best reads this year!
If you've taken in any of Harlan Coben's other titles and enjoyed them then this will be all you want and more. If you've never taken the time to read any of Coben's books before, open yourself up to one of the best thriller novelists available, with "Just one look" as good a place to start as any!
Highly, Highly, Highly recommended! :)
on 21 June 2004
When a mysterious photo appears in Grace Lawson's holiday snaps she is completely unprepared for the effect it will have on her life. It's an old photo and one of the people in it looks a lot like her husband, even though he denies it's him. However, when her husband disappears, the only thing she can think of that may be related is the photo.
What ensues is a desperate hunt for Grace's husband. But he can only be found by working out the significance of the mysterious photo and the identities of the people pictured in it. To add to the terror is the presence of an assassin named Eric Wu, first introduced to scare the pants off us in TELL NO ONE. Eric Wu is a martial arts expert, specialising in incapacitating or killing his victims simply by attacking pressure points on the body. He is a man completely devoid of emotion, effectively a killing machine and a formidable opponent. He has been hired to eliminate the people in the photo and it looks as though nothing's going to stop him.
Harlan Coben has once again produced a thrill-ride of a book with unexpected twists, unlikely heroes and an unusual outcome at the end. His new speciality of books about marriages in which secrets come back to haunt the spouses is continued here and it works just as well her as it did in his first stand-alone, TELL NO ONE.
on 16 October 2005
When Grace Lawson finds a mysterious picture mixed in with her newly developed family pictures she thinks that it was a simple mistake, that someone else's picture got mixed in with hers. Until she realizes that one of the men in the picture is her husband and that the photograph in question was taken at least fifteen years ago. After Grace confronts her husband with the picture he suddenly flees their home leaving Grace and their two children with a lot of questions. When the police wont help her, Grace must dig into the past and find a way to bring her husband home but as she soon finds, there are so many secrets in both her and her husband Jack's past that their whole marriage may be based on a lie.
With a dangerous killer after her and others looking to unearth the mystery of that photograph Grace must race against time and look deeply into not only her husbands past but her own as well in order to uncover the truth and stop this killer before he harms Jack, herself and most importantly her children.
`JUST ONE LOOK' kept me up late into the night trying to finish this fast paced thriller. And while I highly recommend, well anything by Harlan Coben really, I did not give `JUST ONE LOOK' my usual Coben five star rating. This is because there was so much going on in the last 30 pages or so that it got a little jumbled. Nonetheless, this is definitely another great novel by Coben, 4 stars!
on 15 April 2007
Having read a couple of Michael Connelly books I read a review which recommended Harlan Coben. So this was the first of his books that I picked up. I found this book really easy to read and was gripped almost from the start. I wont go into the story line as others have before me but I felt that I really connected with Grace and, having had children of my own, would know what a mother would do to protect them.
An Excellent read! Harlan Coben has me hooked. Almost finished the Innocent and then making a start on my first Myron Bolitar.
This is the fourth Coben novel I've read, and although I find his writing style engaging and gripping, to be a good novel it needs a good plot to sustain it. For me, the number one attribute I look for in a good thriller is the plot. If you judge thrillers in the same way, I strongly suggest you pass this one by.
The book starts off quite promisingly, in Coben's usual style with multiple threads, mysterious set-ups and cliff-hanger chapters. However, after the halfway mark the story really begins to sag, and the conclusion is very disappointing. The plotting is ultimately rather silly, with coincidence and people acting in an unlikely a overly sensational manner in order to make it all work. As you can tell, for me the plot didn't really gel at all. A very contrived storyline.
Coben's writing style can make for a good thriller, but this story couldn't deliver it. I see there are a great many high scoring reviews, so others obviously think otherwise. You decide, but if you get to the end and think the same, don't say I didn't warn you...!
on 28 April 2016
When reviews go into triple figures, it' most likely that whatever you want to say has, pretty much, already been said. So I shall keep this short and for the person wanting a quick scan to find out how good this book is, try to mention the salient points.
A look at the author here will lead you to think that this is a thriller that will keep you glued to this book as you plough your way through it at too quick a pace. You'd be right. The characters are disparate, well drawn and, no surprise here, often not quite who they seem. The story moves along excellently and you only have little respites here and there before the next revelation or action propels you forward. Again, some of the plot you see coming but often you just don't. so what you anticipate may happen, or not! To summarize, just well written.
So I have just two recommendations here. Firstly, if you like a good thriller, you'll enjoy this book, so read it. Secondly (the only reference to the plot here, for more of that, read other reviewers, or better still, the book itself) when you get to the end and the next chapter is the epilogue, don't skip it because you think the story is over. You'll see what I mean once you've read it.
on 29 January 2016
I didn’t really get this book. I found it a bit unrealistic and dull. The plot was over complicated and frankly not that exciting.
I’m a great fan of Harlan Coben and I normally devour his books. He has written some excellent books but sadly this is not one of them - in my view.
on 18 May 2004
For once a book where the ending doesn't disappoint and the book doesn't suddenly finish with more questions than you had at the start. Some of it a touch predictable, (maybe I've just read too many crime novels), but with added plot twists to put you off the scent. Put it this way, I loaned my copy to a friend so she could read it straight away...
Harlan Coben was born in New Jersey in 1962 and is best known for his Myron Bolitar novels. "Just One Look", however, is one of his was stand-alone novels, and was first published in 2004.
Although Grace Lawson is a well-known artist, she's better remembered for an incident known as the 'Boston Massacre'. Fifteen years before the book opens, Grace was in the front pit for a a Jimmy X concert - a show that had been due to start at 8:30pm. The crowd are, obviously, a little agitated when it hits midnight and there's still no sign of the singer. Unfortunately, at that point, things move a little beyond agitation when three shots are fired. The resulting mayhem eighteen people dead and Grace, briefly, in a coma - with a variety of injuries. A year later, she movea to France to study art and meets Jack Lawson there - the man who was to become her husband. It had been love at first sight for the pair, though each kept their secrets : Grace couldn't really talk about the concert (her memories were still a little fuzzy), while Jack had a falling-out with his family - the details of which he was also reluctant to share.
Grace and Jack returned to America, shortly after Grace fell pregnant with their first child. (Emma is now eight, while their more recent addition, Max, is six). Her troubles start as she picks up some freshly-developed photographs from a family day out - when she discovers a photo she didn't take in her packet. At first she thinks someone else's photo has accidentally been sorted into hers - but then she suspects it's been placed there on purpose...There are five people in the photo and, judging by the quality of the print,and the style of dress, it was taken around fifteen years ago. One of the faces has been covered with a large 'X', while another - she thinks - is of Jack...but, at a point in his life before she had met him. Later that night, when Jack arrives home from work, he sees the photo and - within a matter of minutes - nips out the front door and drives off without a word. When he doesn't return, Grace knows he's in trouble. She's right : what she doesn't know, however, is that Jack's been grabbed by Eric Wu - not a man you'd want to mess with. The police, initially, assume he's just done a runner (possibly to scratch a seven year itch). Grace, on the other hand, knows better - and so starts trying to discover what's happened to him. Luckily, she has a couple of useful allies - including noted Mafia Boss Carl Vespa and an Assistant US Attorney, Scott Duncan.
Although I don't think "Just One Look" will ever be considered a classic, it's certainly much better than a Dan Brown book. Admittedly, there wasn't much in the way of tension or fear and some of the characters - the friendly neighbourhood Mafia Boss, for example - were just a little bit too convenient. There also turned out to be a few too many connections between the key players...however, I did find it to be a very enjoyable, pacey and easily read book and it's certainly worth a rattle.
on 7 October 2014
I came to Harlan COBEN via Linwood BARCLAY, Lee CHILDS, Michael CONNELLY, Robert CRAIS and earlier US crime authors like - Jim THOMSON and Robert CRUMLEY. This was my 2nd HC book. As with the 1st, I was disappointed. This may be a function of the hype of friends who recommended HC. So I will try and be objective given that HC is tremendously popular and I am swimming against the tide. For me, US crime fiction rests on the portrayal of a sense of place. In western culture we readily identify (for good or bad) with specific or general locations in the USA. But in JOL it fails.
The action takes place in a suburb of NYC and in NY state. It flows from 'the Boston Massacre' some 15 years earlier. This event is referred to throughout the book because, I thought, HC needed to continually remind himself and his actors what all the plot mayhem was about. I had no sense of either place in the way eg LEHANE generates Boston.
My 2nd criticism concerns the plot. Another reviewer says it is based on a premise so thin as to be unbelievable. I agree. I continually thought surely all this fallout is a bit over the top. The event seemed like a tragic accident rather than an event triggering mayhem many years later.
Characterization - I could not identify or empathize with the many characters who came and went. There were so many players in the book it was hard to see who were main and who were bit. I did not see this as clever pacing by the author but a failure to restrain and promote balanced character development.
2 characters emerge that in my view were worth investment - the hit man Eric WU and a feisty doctor Sally LI. WU was killed toward the end and LI came and went in a couple of chapters. I thought HC really liked WU, and only reluctantly killed him off, and that LI might surface in another HC book.
Otherwise I just could not buy into the thoughts and deeds of Grace LAWSON, Jack LAWSON, Cora LINDLEY, Freddy SYKES, Rock CONWELL, Jimmy X, officer DALEY, Captain PERLMUTTER, Charlaine SWAIN, Scott DUNCAN, Sandra KOVAL, Carl VESPA, his driver CRAM, Wade LARUE et al. This list is not definitive. I did not have time to list them all.
The writing - HC has a descriptive turn of phrase that just tries too hard. He writes like the recommending puff we read on back covers, `.... she felt that overwhelmed thing coming on, that pure blast in the middle of normalcy, the bliss from the everyday' or `.....the man punched Grace again. Hot knives blasted through her. Nausea swam through her stomach and her head' or `the hot scream was back in her ribs. Her knee felt more like shards of shattered glass than a joint'.
I lost the will to live trying to understand why Eric WU was kidnapping and killing everyone. But I bravely carried on to the end. Confused and disappointed. I can only give 1 star.