Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Review of "Deal Breaker" by Harlan Coben




Myron Bolitar was a basketball phenomenon in high school and college and an early draft pick for the NBA. Unfortunately he was severely injured in his first exhibition game and had to quit basketball. Instead Myron got a law degree and became a sports representative. Now in his early thirties Myron represents a small stable of players, including football player Christian Steele - a star college quarterback who's just been drafted by the Titans.

Myron is a master of wise cracks and sarcastic remarks and is endlessly amusing to himself (and probably many readers). He reminds me of Robert B. Parker's 'Spenser' and Rex Stout's 'Archie' in the Nero Wolfe books.

In any case, Myron is having trouble negotiating Christian's contract because the thuggish owner of the Titans, wanting to knock down the pay package, says Christian has a public relations problem. His beautiful girlfriend Kathy Culver disappeared 18 months ago and Christian was suspected of being involved. And Kathy (or her body) has never been found.

Just before training camp begins Christian, in a highly agitated state, calls Myron. Someone has sent him the latest edition of 'Nips' Magazine, a soft-porn rag that contains ads for phone sex. Shockingly, one of the ads features a nude picture of Kathy. Moreover Christian received a phone call from someone who sounds like his missing girlfriend.

At about the same time Myron's drop-dead gorgeous ex-girlfriend Jessica Culver (Kathy's older sister) shows up. Dr. Culver, her pathologist father, was just killed by a mugger and Jessica thinks this might be connected to Kathy's vanishing. Since Myron has known investigative skills, Jessica asks him to look into it.

So Myron investigates, with the help of his old college roommate Windsor Horne Lockwood III. Win is a rich, blonde, handsome, American aristocrat - but his dapper, dandyish appearance is misleading. Win is a sixth degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do, handy with guns, and perfectly happy to maim and kill his (or Myron's) enemies if necessary. In fact, Win is a sociopath (but a lovable one if he's on your side).

As Myron does the dual jobs of working out Christian's contract and looking into the 'Nips' and Kathy situation he comes across various thugs and shady characters as well as a college dean, a seductive married woman, a detective, Dr. Culver's best friend, a porn magazine publisher, a porn photographer, Kathy's mother, former college football players, and more. Most of the male characters are flat and blur together, so I had a problem remembering who was who. We do get to meet a regular in the series, Myron's assistant Esperanza - a Latin fireball who used to wrestle under the moniker 'Little Pocahontas'. Esperanza is always an entertaining senorita.

The first two-thirds or so of the book moves along pretty smoothly. Then, when Myron starts to figure out the truth about Kathy's disapperance, the story gets convoluted, confusing, and (frankly) not believable. Another irritant in the book is Myron's constant gushing about how beautiful his ex-girlfriend Jessica is. He mentions this on about every third or fourth page. At one point Jessica walks past an elegant society party and the jaws of ALL the men in the room drop as they turn to stare at her. (Come on!!! Really???)

It feels like, in this first book, Harlen Coben hasn't found his 'Myron Bolitar' legs yet. The book reminds me of the pilot episode of a TV series that starts out shaky but gets better later on. Overall I'd mildly recommend this book to mystery fans - not for the story but for a first meeting with characters that might just become favorites over time.

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