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Books In Brief: Suspicions abound in two mysteries

Reviewing 'Tell No One' and "Shadow in the Mirror'

Thursday, August 02, 2001


Novelists and readers have an unspoken deal: They build an alternate version of the world and we accept it. As long as we understand that reality has no place in this world, everything's cool and we enjoy the ride, no questions asked.

In the thriller division, Harlan Coben is one of the more successful practitioners of this trade. His latest pulse-pounder requires absolute suspension of disbelief, and if you don't think too hard about the plot, you'll enjoy this fast-moving novel of deception and danger.


By Harlan Coben.
Delacorte Press. $22.95


Our hero and narrator is Dr. Dave Beck, an idealistic healer at a New York clinic for poor children. He's still mourning the loss of his soulmate, Elizabeth Parker, victim of a serial killer eight years before the story opens.

Then, one day, a mystery e-mail arrives, and ELIZABETH'S ALIVE! Only Dr. Dave, so he thinks, knows.

But, there's a problem: The FBI suspects Beck of being her killer. Then, when an old friend is shot to death, all the clues point to the pediatrician for this one, too, and he goes on the lam.

The cops aren't the only ones chasing him. An evil millionaire (is there any other kind in these books?) assigns a sadistic torturer to the case as well. It has something to do with avenging the death of his son, who was killed shortly before Elizabeth's "death."

The denouement requires a cast bigger than the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. It includes a TV celebrity lawyer, a lesbian couple and their bedwetting son, a Korean psychopath and a helpful drug dealer, along with numerous law enforcement types.

Coben scores with his vividly painted descriptions, quick-moving short chapters and a plot like a switchback mountain road. If we keep our end of the bargain and don't question anything (such as why is the FBI handling a local murder case or why can't Beck, knowing what he knows, put 2 and 2 together sooner?), the novel exceeds most expectations, even for a best-selling thriller, which it is.

And, although we're giving Coben a lot of latitude here, we will chide him for calling Stanford White, the famed New York architect, a murderer when it was he who was slain by Pittsburgh's own Harry Thaw.

(Informed of the gaffe, Coben vowed to correct it in the paperback version.)

I myself am a poor deal-maker, however. The plot twist on the last page doesn't hold up for me. To be sure, I will not reveal it so that most of you will have a fun time learning it for yourself.

-- Bob Hoover, Post-Gazette Book Editor

Shadow In The Mirror

Let's see what we have here at first glance. An evil twin. A revenge-minded criminal. An ill man who's hearing a voice that beckons him to the other side.

You don't have to be a mentalist to guess there's danger ahead.

Grant Montgomery is a mentalist, and he'll need his finely tuned skills in observation to solve a mystery and save himself in Robert Aiello's latest novel featuring the protagonist.


By Robert Aiello.
Creative Arts. $14.95.


Now retired from the show-biz circuit, Grant lives in Pittsburgh and is still recognized as a celebrity. His occasional help on police cases adds to his notoriety, but one of those favors has made him an enemy of Jack Florentine. Two years earlier, Grant uncovered how Florentine was rigging gambling equipment, and his testimony sent the hoodlum to jail. Florentine's out now and is obsessed with payback.

As if that weren't enough to occupy Grant's mind, he learns his mentor, Maynard, has an inoperable brain tumor and has moved back to Pittsburgh with his twin daughters, one of whom Grant dated.

When Maynard apparently succumbs to a "spirit" he believes is leading him to suicide, Grant finds himself comforting old love Lorraine while noticing suspicious actions of her sister, Lona.

Is Maynard's death something different than it appears? Are other lives in danger? Can Grant keep himself and his present sweetheart safe from Florentine?

Aiello, a retired Pittsburgh public relations executive, keeps things engrossing and moving at a fast pace, although sometimes you wish parts of the plot had more meat to them.

The tale doesn't offer much flavor of Pittsburgh aside from the dropping of names of streets, neighborhoods and locations. But look beyond the cheesy cover, and you'll find an interesting hero in an adequate suspense story.

-- Karen Carlin, , Post-Gazette Staff Writer

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