Picks and Pans Review: No Second Chance

updated 05/05/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/05/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

By Harlan Coben

Disappearing family members and psychopaths on the loose add up to another unpredictable thriller from Coben. The hero, Dr. Marc Seidman, awakens in a hospital to learn he has barely survived a bullet in the chest, his wife has been murdered, and their 6-month-old daughter is missing. When a kidnapper demands money 12 days after the fact, Seidman's confusion only deepens: Why would the kidnappers try to kill the people who could pay the ransom?

Returning to the missing-person theme that drove Tell No One and Gone for Good to the bestseller lists, Coben again keeps the reader off-balance with innovative story lines and diabolical bad guys—this time including a former child sitcom star. But some passages are saccharine and Coben throws in one plot twist too many. The result is a fresh take on a standard setup that spoils in the last chapters. (Dutton, $24.95)

BOTTOM LINE: Strong start, weak finish

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