I’ve frequented numerous message boards over the years, the bulk of which contain information about books and comics (with some movies and music thrown in for good measure). While I’ve been fortunate enough to make some of my closest friends on these sites, the thing that keeps bringing me back year after year is the recommendation of new-to-me authors, books, and series.
The examples are countless, and I remember the specifics of the game-changers. Steve S. pointed me toward the writing of George R. R. Martin at a time when I was increasingly bored by Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. Mark S. showed me the free-wheeling style and gut-busting dark humor of Joe Lansdale. James N. damn-near had to force-feed me the first Repairman Jack novel by F. Paul Wilson, after which I don’t think I stopped reading Wilson for a couple years straight. Hunter G.’s passionate love for all things Robert McCammon pointed out a major “hole” in my personal library, providing me with a veritable treasure trove of material.
And on and on and on.
I’m going to let you in on a little behind-the-scenes information as it pertains to this blog: book reviews are the worst performing entries, and it’s not even close. I may get in the neighborhood of 10-15 views on any given book review (with the exception of The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak and Mister Slaughter by Robert McCammon, mostly because the author (former) and webmaster (latter) pushed the reviews on their sites), whereas rants about bad drivers or pain-in-the-arse customers at Chipotle bury those numbers. So why do I continue to write them, you ask? Well, part of it is that I’m a stubborn mule (lots o’ German blood flowing through these veins), but mostly it’s because the people who *do* care about the reviews are opening lines of communication with me, thanking me for pointing them toward an author they haven’t tried yet, and offering up recommendations of their own.
Which gets us to Deal Breaker by Harlan Coben, a book that blog follower Nancie W. thought I would enjoy reading. Coben is another one of those “holes” in my library; I’ve never read his work, despite him writing numerous bestsellers and garnering a variety of genre awards throughout his career. As such, I was excited to take Nancie’s advice and dive into a new book.
Deal Breaker is the first book in The Myron Bolitar Series, which focuses on a sports agent who gets wrapped up in his client’s issues. In this case, Myron is on the cusp of signing his first big-time sports figure, quarterback Christian Steele, to a lucrative deal with the Tennessee Titans. A couple days before camp is scheduled to begin, Christian receives a piece of mail that shatters his world: a recent issue of a pornographic magazine that has a picture of his girlfriend in it…a girlfriend who suddenly disappeared months beforehand and was believed to be dead. Already on-edge due to the lack of a long-term contract so close to the start of training camp, Christian starts to spiral, causing Myron to enlist the help of his partner, Windsor “Win” Lockwood, to figure out who sent the magazine and what really happened to Steele’s girlfriend.
I thoroughly enjoyed Deal Breaker, which came across to me as a white-collar version of Joe Lansdale’s Hap & Leonard series, right down to the dark humor and a pair of friends that practices taekwondo together. That being said, Coben breathes his own unique style into the story’s main characters — Bolitar is an FBI operative turned smart-ass sports agent who lives with his parents, drives a shitty car, and drinks Yoo-Hoo; Win was also in the FBI, became a billionaire who is always with a new girl, and is a deadly fighter despite his preppy name and attire. The supporting cast of characters, from the agency’s secretary to Bolitar’s former girlfriend to the seedy people encountered along the way, all add to the world Coben has created. Throw in a healthy dash of red herring and dead ends, and I found myself having a ton of fun with this book.
The main thing that let me down about the book was the lack of backstory for both Myron and Win. They obviously have a very interesting past, and they’ve been through some serious changes in their lives. With only a token glance at their history, I was left with a lot of unanswered questions about who they are and how/why they turned toward their current roles. With many additional books in the series, I’m hoping more of their background will eventually be detailed. On a smaller note, some of the humor fell flat for me, but that’s to be expected when it comes to humor: you can’t win ‘em all.
I’m waffling with the score for this novel. I want to give it an 8 out of 10 because it really was a fun ride and I look forward to jumping into the next book in the series, but I feel like it should drop to a 7 out of 10 for the lack of a backstory on the two main characters. Because I can’t make a decision on this one, I’ll cop out and split the difference, giving Deal Breaker a very solid 7.5 out of 10. I thank Nancie W. for recommending it to me, and I hope other readers will give it a shot if they haven’t tried Coben’s fiction before now.
Until we meet again…