(Yes, we’re going backward.)
No. Just no. Longtime readers know I have an affection for series detective works (Jack Reacher, Spenser), so occasionally I audition a new line given that Robert Parker is dead and I read way faster than Lee Child can write.
Deal Breaker was not a successful audition.
What a disappointing mishmash! We grabbed this as an (unabridged) audiobook from the library for our Thanksgiving drive, and holy crap it’s a mess. The plot’s all over the place, and the protagonist — with the hilariously unlikely name Myron Bolitar — is completely Mary-Sue territory. He’s a former Duke basketball star! Who won the NCAA! Twice in four years! And was drafted by the Celtics, only to suffer a career-ending injury in a preseason game!
So he became an FBI agent — during which time he apparently did Big Important things that were Off The Record and SEKRIT — and a lawyer! And a sports agent (because obviously)! And a firetruck! And a millionaire! And a lion tamer!
Ok, I made up those last three, but the rest are true. Really.
Oh, it gets better: his best pal is a seemingly milquetoast old-money finance geek (“Windsor Horne Lockwood III,” we are told, with no hint of irony) who is apparently also a former sekrit agent man, only despite being of utterly average build it’s the little guy who’s the scary unbeatable badass and not the six-foot-four former professional athlete. Predictably, too, Lockwood has a questionable moral compass kept in check by his complete loyalty to Bolitar.
It’s also clear that Coben really, really loves Robert Parker’s Spenser novels. Bolitar says things constantly that I’m sure Coben thinks of as clever-like-Spenser (including literary quotes, which is just a bridge too far), but it invariably comes off as badly-executed mimicry. The Spenser analogs keep coming, too: obviously Lockwood is meant to be an adaptation of Spenser’s morally ambiguous pal Hawk, and just as obviously Bolitar’s unfeasibly attractive paramour is patterned on Spenser’s lover Susan.
I get that, if you’re working in detective fiction, it’s gonna be hard to get out from under Parker’s shadow. But it’s totally doable; here, it seems like Coben isn’t even trying (or, worse, it’s a deliberate attempt to capture some of the same readers — not for nothing, I expect, are Bolitar’s reactions to things around sex and women something more suited to someone decades older than Coben himself).
The whole thing is weak sauce, and best avoided. OTOH, it was free (yay libraries!) and helped pass time on I-10, so in that context it wasn’t completely without merit — but those points are kinda like saying a wine “pours well.”