As this thriller begins, Maya Stern Burkett, a former Army captain, is attending the funeral of her husband Joe, shot by muggers at night in Central Park in New York. Maya’s loss is compounded by the fact that her much beloved sister Claire was killed four months earlier. New York Police Homicide Detective Roger Kierce isn’t entirely convinced Maya didn’t kill her husband herself, and continues to harass her.
Maya is also concerned about her late sister’s children. Their dad, Claire’s husband Eddie, is drowning his loss in alcohol, and the two kids, Daniel and Alexa, are looking to Maya for parenting help. But Maya has her hands pretty full being a single parent now to her 2-year-old daughter Lily.
As if all of that weren’t enough, Maya still suffers nightmares from her time flying helicopters in the Middle East. She would still be doing that, but for a video released by Corey Rudzinski on his whistle-blower website, which ended her career in the army. Ominously, Corey never released the audio, which contained even more damaging information, and the possibility that he might do so in the future hangs over Maya’s head.
To help Maya out with Lily, Maya’s best friend brings her a nanny cam so she can keep an eye on Lily and her nanny Isabella during the day, when Maya is working. After a few days of checking the footage on the computer, Maya is astonished to see her dead husband Joe in the den with Maya. When Maya confronts Isabella, Isabella hits her with pepper spray and leaves, claiming afterward that Maya was delusional and dangerous. But Maya knows something isn’t right. And when she finds out that the same gun that killed Joe was used to kill her sister Claire, her entire life is thrown into confusion. Not knowing whom to trust, she sets out to investigate on her own, until a tense dénouement with multiple twists reveals what really happened.
Evaluation: Harlan Coben is a bestselling author because his books are reliably and satisfyingly scary and entertaining. This particular page-turner is a standalone.
Published by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2016
Note: According to The Hollywood Reporter, Fool Me Once has been optioned as a movie with Julia Roberts set to produce, and also star as Maya.