Deal Breaker

Deal Breaker   by Harlan Coben

Rebel Voice has decided that, after the recent break-up with James Lee Burke, we should both see other people. Harlan Coben is an old flame. Whether it is advisable to return to such a relationship is questionable, but here goes.

In this first installment of the Myron Bolitar series (1995), we find our Sports Agent cum Private Investigator looking into the disappearance of Kathy Culver, the younger sister of Myron’s great love, Jessica, who has re-entered his life after a devastating break-up.

Kathy seemed to have it all going for her when she mysteriously vanished. Her finance at the time, Christian, was a high school football star, deeply in love with her. But as Myron delves into Kathy’s past, he finds that she was not all she seemed. She had dark secrets. Kathy’s father, a coroner, has recently died in an apparently random mugging but Jessica is not so sure that the two tragedies are unconnected. Myron, who is thinking with his little head due to Jessica’s irresistible sex appeal, comes to the same conclusions.

What follows is a twisty plot that weaves through the lives of not only the Culver family, but also that of Christian, Myron, and a host of other characters that pop up in this tale. Thankfully, Myron’s good friend, the sociopath Win, is present in his usual guise of cold-hearted killer with a conscience (the best sort). Win is perhaps the bright spot in what is a fairly predictable story.

Coben’s writing skills are sizable. His characters are consistent, if bland and mired in hawkish morality. His stories are appealing but of little substance. I enjoyed Deal Breaker, for example, but one week later would have difficulty remembering the plot-line. Harlan Coben’s work will not offend, terribly, but neither will it change your world and grab you emotionally and shake you about until you feel no option but to become a different person.

Rebel Voice has a problem with writers who engage in white-picket fence tales of morality. You know what I mean. The man who tracks down the psycho who rapes and kills a number of young girls, but when he corners the scumbag, and when the scumbag gives him a reason to, he hesitates in killing him. His reasoning is one of supposed conscience. Our alleged hero doesn’t want to wrestle with the guilt that he feels will accompany him because he has taken a human life. Oh, the humanity!

It’s a load of shit though. Cops and such like who hunt down the lowest of the low, will have little compunction about killing a rapist or killer if given the chance to do so. Nor will most have any trouble sleeping after. Nor should they.

Harlan Coben is a tad wishy-washy for Rebel Voice‘s liking and it’s possible that this rekindling of our romance is going to be a short-lived one. He also wears mismatched socks.

On a more positive note, there are a number of strands to Deal Breaker that keep the reader’s attention. Additionally, Win manages to refute all the wishy-washy criticism that was just levelled at Coben’s writing. It’s unfortunate that the author feels the need to create such a supposed balance, as it means that the story loses some credibility.

It should also be noted, that although Myron is in his thirties, he still lives in his parent’s basement. Coben goes some way in this book to perpetuate the Jewish stereotype of the typical interfering Jewish mother and the stand-offish yet comical Jewish father. We could be looking at Meet the Parents 2. That said, Myron is about 6 feet 4 inches tall, so is not typical of the average Jewish male. But seriously, he lives in the basement and yet owns his own Sports Agency. Can you imagine the fun the media would have with that today? How would any major sports star take such a person seriously? The basement you say, and you want to represent me? Fuck off!

One other problem with Deal Breaker is that it reads as if it is a continuation rather than the first in the series. There are subplots not explained. Myron is thrust upon us with little introduction, as are his friends. It will be a little disconcerting for anyone not already familiar with the series, although Rebel Voice is, from having read the books out of sequence.

All-in-all, Deal Breaker is sadly unimaginative fare, by Coben’s standards or any other. The plot holds but is not overly strong. The characters are reasonably engaging but not memorable. The book is OK but not more than that.

Sult scale rating: 6 out of 10. It shouldn’t bore you to tears, but it won’t melt your butter. If you can’t find anything else to read, then this is the one for you. Now where did I put James Lee’s number…?

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