Former special ops pilot Maya, home from the war, sees an unthinkable image captured by her nanny cam while she is at work: her two-year-old daughter playing with Maya’s husband, Joe—who had been brutally murdered two weeks earlier. The provocative question at the heart of the mystery: Can you believe everything you see with your own eyes, even when you desperately want to? To find the answer, Maya must finally come to terms with deep secrets and deceit in her own past before she can face the unbelievable truth about her husband—and herself.
Worldbuilding: The New York (plus, lol) setting was interesting, though outside the sense of power-due-to-wealth and the murder scene in Joe’s case, I can’t say that it made much of an impression on me (I’m not saying that it should have, mind you). Maya’s investigating took me to other places too.
Characters: Maya was a strange creature, in my opinion. I didn’t dislike her, but I didn’t like her either. There was this non-human-like efficiency about her that I respected, and she had guts to spare for sure. But I can’t say I liked her. I admired her loyalty to her loved ones, her swiftness when it came to taking action – probably a soldier/ex-soldier thing -. But I didn’t outright like her. I didn’t find her charming, or charismatic, or intriguing. She had secrets, that was clear to me from the beginning. She was haunted by some things from her past. I empathized with her. I just couldn’t like her, not even when I admired the toughness of choices she made.
I loved Shane, though I got to see little of him. He came off as…human. Very human. I liked Eddie. I even liked Claire, and I only got to see her through Maya’s eyes since Claire, her sister, is dead during the story. But Maya…I found her unsettling, in a non-fascinating way. Keep in mind I’m a fan of badass chicks, and that she was. I respected the hell out of her for that.
Plot: The mystery at heart of the story, one might think, is Joe’s murder. Except it’s not, actually. The actual mystery consists of a few other murders, his coming as a conclusion of sorts. Or an intermezzo. There’s another death in the novel, a significant one. I’m not spoiling it for you. There’s a lot tension and a bit of confusion as we follow Maya, but I pretty much got the picture about Joe’s, Claire’s, Andrew’s murders quickly. I wasn’t so sure about the death of Andrew’s and Joe’s school-mate, but it didn’t shock me. And boy, that ending!
Writing: Third person, past tense narrative, mainly Maya’s POV (with one notable exception). I was tempted to say the style was a bit dry for me, maybe, but then came that last chapter that I didn’t find dry at all. Which made me realize it wasn’t the style I didn’t like, but Maya.
Curb Appeal: Cool cover, interesting blurb – impulsive buy material for my thriller moods.
Fool Me Once was a really interesting read. It made me think, the clues were satisfactory and had a nice tempo, there was enough action and tension to keep me excited, and had a pretty kickass ending. I think the reading experience is even better if you happen to like Maya, which I didn’t. But it was still a thought-provoking read, even so. I recommend it to fans of thrillers that involve murder mysteries and investigations, to fans of soldier/ex-soldier stories too – even if her career is not heavily featured in the story, Maya is most definitely a soldier, start to finish.