Tell No One
By Harlan Coben
Tell No One is the story of David Beck whose life is shattered when his wife, Elizabeth, is murdered shortly after the murder of Brandon Scope. For the past eight years he has relived the event of that night at the lake: the carving in the tree that represents each year they’ve been together, the glistening stillness of the lake, and the sudden screams of terror, but most of all, the regret and guilt that he feels everyday. ‘If I saved myself, why couldn’t I save her?’ was the question that had haunted David Beck for all these years.
Beck’s life is turned upside-down when he receives an anonymous email with the subject “kiss time” followed by 21 slashes, (the number of years they would have been together). Beck’s whole world stops. For that one moment he has hope that Elizabeth has sent the email. Impossible. It must be a sick joke, but no one else knows about “kiss time”. When Beck opens the email he sees her. “It couldn’t be. I know that. Elizabeth hadn’t fallen off a yacht and assumed drowned, her body never found. Her corpse had been found in a ditch off Route 80… She had been positively Ided. Not by you…” (50). It is a simple email he receives that forces Beck to open his life back up to every horrifying event that had occurred to find out what really happened 8 years ago.
Beck receives a second email, this time he is given a username and password to log into that is a code that only he would know. In the email he is informed that he is to meet the assumed Elizabeth at Washington Square Park at five o’clock with a warning that he will be followed. “Hope, that the caged bird that just won’t die, broke free. I leaned back. Tears flooded my eyes, but for the first time in a long while, I let loose a real smile. Elizabeth. She was still the smartest person I knew” (150).
While one aspect of Beck’s life was looking up, the other was not. Detectives Carlson and Stone suspect Beck of murdering Elizabeth. They have found a safety deposit box under the name of Sarah Goodhart which contains photographs of Elizabeth bruised and beaten. After being asked how Elizabeth had received the bruises Beck explained that she and her friend had been in a car accident while Beck was out of town. This answer only leads the detectives to be even more suspicious of Beck. The detectives then go to Hoyt parker, Elizabeth’s father and retired cop, to question him about the relationship between Elizabeth and Beck. They also reveal their theory of how David killed Elizabeth.
Soon Beck becomes the suspect of not only Elizabeth’s murder, but also a long-time friend of Elizabeth’s who had been shot shortly after Beck had visited her to find out what really happened the night Elizabeth was in a car accident. The next day, the day Beck is to meet Elizabeth at Washington Square Park, the police find a gun that has recently been fired in Beck’s garbage can. They now have enough evidence to arrest him for the murder of Elizabeth’s friend. Beck is reassured by his lawyer that he will make bail at midnight, but it’s not good enough. Beck has to meet Elizabeth at five o’clock. “My connection with Elizabeth was so damn fragile, like strands of Venetian glass. If I’m not at Washington Square at five o’clock…”(181). Beck was desperate. He had to get out, so he ran. He was now a suspect of two murders and running from the police. “…the image of Elizabeth looking into that camera kept shoving me forward, pumping me up” (183).
Beck finally escaped into an apartment building where he dialed a number he never wanted to dial. “I had never called this number before-had never wanted to- but I knew it by heart. ‘Tyrese? It’s Dr. Beck. I need your help”(197). Tyrese is the father of one of Beck’s patients and a well-known drug dealer. Sure enough Tyrese had come through for Beck by setting up a diversion for the police that were chasing him. Beck could not believe that in the past seventy-two hours “I had seen a ghost, gotten emails from the dead, had become a suspect in not one but two murders, was on the run from the law, and had enlisted the aid of a known drug dealer”(200-201). None of this mattered anymore. He didn’t care about the repercussions of his actions. All he wanted was to see Elizabeth.
It was finally five o’clock. Beck was there. Located in “Washington Square’s most striking edifice was a high tower of washed-brown brick on the south side of the park,” was Elizabeth. “ ‘Ah, Beck…’ She kept staring at him. She forced herself to turn away… Beck had come for her. But so had they… They’d found them. Despite all her precautions, they were here”(224-225). Elizabeth panicked. She couldn’t endanger Beck now. “Time to go. By herself. And this time for good… Survival first. His anyway. She had no choice. She had to go”(226). Elizabeth climbed in a taxi and headed for the JFK airport.
Meanwhile, Beck remembers what Elizabeth said in the email “you’ll be followed”(231). Slowly, he begins to notice a man who’d been reading his newspaper when he got there, but is now gone. Coincidence? “When I reached the curb, I felt a hand on my shoulder. Gentle at first. Like an old friend sneaking up behind me. I turned and had enough time to see it was the Asian guy with the dyed hair… His fingers bore into the joint’s crevice like spearheads… Pain-crippling pain-slashed down my left side… I tried to scream or fight, but I couldn’t move”(231-232). All of a sudden Tyrese shows up with his wingman Brutus. Together they ward off the Asian man and bring Beck to safety. While the three are driving Beck suddenly understands the meaning of “you’ll be followed” (233). “All the precautions- the unsigned emails, the code words, the warnings- they all made sense now. Elizabeth was afraid… I finally understood that her cryptic communications were a result of fear. Fear of being found”(233).
Meanwhile, Beck’s lawyer and best friend Shauna provide the police with evidence that he didn’t murder Elizabeth’s friend. Beck had been at Kinko’s using the computer at the time of the woman’s murder. All charges against Beck were dropped.
Shauna, who is a professional model, receives a note when she arrives at a photo shoot telling her to go to the ladies’ room. Shauna “stepped onto the tile and stopped cold. There, across the room, standing in front of the near stall, was a ghost… ‘Elizabeth…’”(315). Elizabeth tries to convince Shauna to convince Beck she’s dead, but Shauna refuses to comply. “ ‘If you leave him again, he won’t survive. I’ve been waiting eight years for him to get over you. That’s what’s supposed to happen, you know. Wounds heal. Life goes on. But not for Beck’”(316). Finally, Elizabeth gives in and gives Shauna orders to tell Beck Dolphin and that he’d know what she meant.
Beck knew exactly what Elizabeth had meant by ‘Dolphin’. Dolphin was the name of one of the cabins located on the grounds of Lake Charmaine. Then he saw her. “I opened my arms and she jumped in. I held her. I held her as tight as I could… She still…fit”(348).
Beck and Elizabeth return from the lake and arrive at Elizabeth’s home looking for Hoyt. Beck finds Hoyt drunk and distraught sitting in his car parked in the garage. There Hoyt confesses to everything. He knew all along Elizabeth wasn’t dead. He helped her hide all these years for fear of her being killed for murdering Brandon Scope, the beloved son of multi-millionaire Griffin Scope. It wasn’t a car accident that left Elizabeth bruised and beaten. It had been Brandon Scope. One night Brandon had come at Elizabeth with a knife and it was assumed she had shot him in self-defense. For this reason Griffin Scope had hired men to kill Elizabeth and since then, to watch Beck. But the question throughout the book is who really killed Brandon Scope? Was it Hoyt Parker who was only looking out for his daughter? Was it really Elizabeth? It couldn’t have been Beck, he was in Chicago. Or was he?
In the novel Tell No One , David Beck is filled with guilt, regret, and grief over the loss of his wife, Elizabeth. Reliving the events of that night are a constant for him, so much so that he shuts out the rest of the world from that day forward, to leave the murder behind. It’s not until he receives the anonymous email that forces Beck to open back up to the world around him and face what has always been in the subconscious of his mind.