Saturday, January 05, 2013

Play Dead by Harlan Coben (Spoiler Alert)

Lately I have had a bit of too much free time on my hands which resulted in me being able to finish a big thick book quite quickly, Play Dead by Harlan Coben. As usual, I am linking you to its Goodreads page without hyperlinking as I don’t have the slightest clue how to do that and as usual my review contains spoilers.

In the beginning of this book, Harlan Coben does give us a warning. That if you haven’t read any book of his in the past then you should put this down, read another book of his first, then come back to this one. Well, me, I just ignored the warning and just went on and reading the book. I have been over some of the reviews people have written on Goodreads and they do say that his other books are much better than this one, but like I said, this is my first Harlan Coben read, so I can’t testify that myself in any way.

This is a book full of conspiracy and full of cliché. One world class top model gets married to one of the best basketball players. Something you typically find in supermarket tabloids, right? Well, so the model, Laura and the basketball player, David, want to get married but Laura’s mom is so hell bent against it that they run away to Australia and get married and do their honeymoon there. In Australia, David vanishes and turns out he is dead by drowning. So far so good.

But after this, I felt like I was reading the script of some soap opera or cheap Indian drama. I usually like stuff with conspiracy as that increases suspense and makes stuff more interesting. But in this case, even though I did enjoy the conspiracy, it appeared so soap opera-ish.

Just take a look at the way the conspiracy unfolds. Laura’s mom Mary tells her to stay away from David. Laura don’t listen. So Mary follows them to Australia and tells David that he and Laura are brother and sister as Mary had an affair with David’s dad and Laura is a result of this affair. So David, instead of leaving Laura or ignoring it or doing something a rational human being would do, David went and got a face transplant and his voice changed. I mean, seriously? Face transplant? Reminds me of some Indian drama whose name I can’t remember where they claimed a character got injured in a car crash and they claimed she got a face transplant because of the injuries because the actress who played the role changed.

David with the face transplant and new identity goes back to playing basketball and even though everyone notices the new guy plays just like David, nobody raises a finger in suspicion. Anyways, the conspiracy builds up more and more and more and then the way the entire thing unfolds is actually quite interesting, especially when the truth behind David’s dad comes into being.

The way the whole conspiracy unfolds is quite interesting and quite shocking too. When things become much clear things begin to point either at Mary or at Mary’s sister Judy. I was, at one point, convinced that its all Judy’s handicraft. I was actually very shocked and taken aback when I realized who was behind it and how that individual carried out the conspiracy. Such a dramatic soap opera this turned out to be when all was revealed at the end.

And the part of David and Laura being brother and sister? Nothing can resemble a soap opera or a cheap Indian drama more than that!! Judy tells James, James gets pissed off, drugs Mary, aborts the baby and then makes Mary pregnant with his kid. And all this time Mary is under the impression that James knows nothing and that he has fallen for the web of lies that have been spun around all of the characters in this book. So they are not brother sister after all!

I know throughout I have been ranting about the soap opera element of this book and how it resembles a cheap Indian drama, but please don’t get me wrong here. Despite having its soap opera/Indian drama element to it, its actually a really awesome book. Yes, the author does take some time to actually build up the conspiracy. Building up the conspiracy is quite slow and I personally think the author should have done that quicker. But once you get tangled in the web of the conspiracy, it really grips you strongly, and then you just can’t put down the book. You want to keep on and on reading and see how the conspiracy unfolds because it takes like a million different twists and turns, many of them unexpected.

One thing in the underlying tone of the book is the bad side of beauty. Beauty of the human body, to be specific. And how it can actually destroy and harm other people. Whenever we think of beauty, we always think of the benefits it gives you. About how it can help you get ahead, how it can open doors for you, how it can get you favours. And for those who crave the attention of the opposite gender, beauty can give you that attention. But the downside of beauty? We ignore that. Harlan Coben has addressed that wonderfully. I honestly wonder if he intentionally intended to do this or if it is something that I just happened to pick up on. We learn about how one sister lost not one, but two, men to her sister because even though she herself was beautiful, her sister was beautiful-er. We learn, in one scene, how girls have used their beauty to get an unfair advantage. We learn about how someone took advantage of another person because the other person was beautiful. I like the way the author has addressed the bad side of beauty like this.

At the end of the day, despite the soap opera element to it (and my personal hatred such soap opera type clichéd stories) I would still definitely recommend it. Its a book to read to pass the time. And its quite interesting to see such a conspiracy being spinned and then unravelled. This requires a lot of talent. Even though from what I have heard, this is not one of Harlan Coben’s better works, his talent still shines through this for sure.

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