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Misses the Mark
on July 25, 2004
'One False Move' was my first Harlan Coben novel, and while it had its moments, overall I was disappointed. I understand that Coben is a prolific writer with a large fan base, but I found Coben, at least in this effort, far inferior to today's best writers of crime fiction: Dennis Lehane, James Lee Burke, and Lee Childs all do a better job with plot, setting, and characters. And if you prefer to add witty dialogue and one-liners to that mix, consider Robert Crais, William Lashner, or David Rosenfelt (who also does a better north Jersey).
In 'One False Move', ex-basketball star and current sports agent Myron Bolitar agrees to protect Brenda Slaughter, the bright and beautiful star of the WNBA, the women's professional basketball league. Her mother had deserted Brenda some twenty years ago, and now her father, Horace Slaughter, has vanished. Bolitar has a personal stake in this, as Horace was Myron's mentor as he was rising through the ranks of amateur basketball. This seemingly innocent assignment begins unraveling a sordid 20-year old tale of bad love, murder, deception, corruption and power.
Perhaps a reader needs a couple of installments of Myron Bolitar to appreciate him, but I couldn't figure out what Coben was trying to do with himr. While the big ex-jock persona was incongruous with the indecisive, somewhat neurotic mamas boy image, neither of these fit with the gun-toting tough guy always ready with a snappy wisecrack. We are to believe that Myron, who struggles to decide whether or not he some make is assistant a partner in his firm, and who only recently moved out of his parent's home, can stand down ruthless mobsters and power-crazed gubernatorial candidates? Believe that, and you probably can believe that, as positioned in this story, the WNBA really does matter. But while Bolitar was somewhat of an enigma, Bolitar sidekick Winston Lock-Horne manages to add an entirely new dimension to 'annoying'. (As an example, in answering his phone, the insufferable 'Win' inserts 'articulate' for 'hello). The reader is to believe that the manicured and polished Win, of old money and Ivy League society, is really a Clint Eastwood in a blue blazer and tasseled loafers. Yet the mere mention of this pretty-boy's name sends chills down the spine of even the most hardened of New Jersey's mobsters. Right.
Add to this a plot that is wholly unbelievable, cluttered with a love tangent that turns as sappy as it is unnecessary, and you have 'One False Move', fiction that while mildly entertaining leaves little to recommend it.