The moment January LaVoy begins reading Harlan Corben’s enthralling new thriller, the opening funeral scene draws you into the darkening world of Maya Burkett, a former Special Ops pilot with PTSD who is now burying her husband.
LaVoy’s soft spoken voice draws out Maya’s angst as she fights to stay strong for her daughter despite all that has happened to her. We soon learn Maya’s sister was also murdered, in a home invasion only four months prior to her husband’s death at the hands of two muggers.
Her memories of war and her recent losses fill Maya’s dreams with nightmare visions of the past. Her trauma is compounded by the harassment of a local police detective who struggles to accept her explanation of events over her husband’s death, and by whistle-blower Corey Rudzinski, a Julian Assange style character who had ended Maya’s military career by releasing evidence that her actions had killed civilians and who continues to hold back on releasing further incriminating evidence against her.
What appears to be a relatively simple story of grief quickly begins weaving itself into a rollercoaster of twists and turns as the police discover the same gun killed both Maya’s husband and sister. A nanny cam, gifted by a friend to help Maya have one less thing to worry about, unexpectedly unveils another impossible truth, and Maya suddenly finds herself questioning her own sanity while becoming embroiled in a conspiracy that’s closer to home than she could ever have imagined.
LaVoy’s reading, nay, re-enactment of the drama is enhanced by her stellar characterisations, with Maya and her cold mother-in-law being particular highlights. Her pacing is excellent and her emotive range lets you feel the grief, the anger, the cold bitterness and the love.
Harlan Coben’s crime thriller is an exemplar of good characterisation, blurring truth and potential fantasy so, like his main character, we’re never quite sure what’s real and what’s not in Maya’s baffling and terrifying world of grief. LaVoy takes us all the way with spellbinding storytelling and just the right touches of light humour to break the tension.
Running approximately 10 hours and 4 minutes, the unabridged audiobook of Fool Me Once is a compulsory and addictive listening experience, difficult to turn off from the moment it starts.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 9
The audiobook of Fool Me Once was published by Random House Audiobooks and is available through Audible.com.au