With Harlan Coben,
there's always a chance

''No Second Chance''
By Harlan Coben
(Dutton, 338 pps., $24.95)

Buy it at in hardcover.

Reviewed by John Orr
April 2003

The Harlan Coben formula: A man loses someone he loves, immerses himself in doing good works, then years later discovers he may be able to get the loved one back. In ''Tell No One'' it was a wife; in ''Gone for Good'' it was a brother; in Coben's latest, ''No Second Chance,'' it's a child.

''When the first bullet hit my chest, I thought of my daughter'' is the opening sentence of ''No Second Chance,'' which sees Dr. Marc Seidman waking up in a hospital 12 days later to find his wife was killed in the same incident, and his daughter Tara is missing.

This being Coben, readers can never be really sure a character is really dead, but Seidman accepts everyone's assurance that his spouse is dead and buried, and two days later, a ransom note for his daughter arrives.

If you contact the authorities, we disappear. You will never know what happened to her. We will be watching. We will know. We have a man on the inside. Your calls are being monitored. ... Deviate from what we ask, and you will never see your daughter again. There will be no second chance.

Seidman's rich father-in-law provides the $2 million, but contact is made with the police, and the bad guys disappear, along with Tara.

Eighteen months later, a second chance does emerge.

Also, of course, with the second chance comes the opportunity for the bad guys to finish killing Seidman and other people, and make off with another pile of cash, and for Seidman to be suspected by the cops of having done the shooting and kidnapping himself.

''No Second Chance'' is an involving read, not as good as ''Tell No One'' but certainly worthwhile, and with its own cast of fascinating characters, including the evil but attractive 5-foot-1 Lydia, who is the partner of the slow-witted but loyal Heshy, 6-foot-6.

A good ride to an exciting finish.