I read two Linwood Barclay books recently: a paperback copy of No Time For Goodbye and a hardcover Never Look Away (Doubleday Canada). The genre is Fictional Thriller.
Barclay’s male protagonists in both books share many traits: nice guys trying to do their best to keep a lid on a situation where a pretty wife is either delusional, or a suspected murderer. Both men have one child between the ages of four and ten. Both men employed in middle-income jobs.
Barclay figured out a tidy formula for throwing suspicion over lesser characters, leading the reader into the game of Who-Done-It. Detectives are suspicious, tenacious and forgiving. Parents are mostly good people who have grown up children’s best interests at heart. Villains have guns.
I’m not convinced Barclay has nailed the children’s roles in either book. There’s a lot of angst over protecting a child, but it seems contrived at times. The view of the children is adult-centered. The plastic kids are easy to convince to do what they’re told by loving parents. Not always my reality.
This is not a genre I normally read. I attended Linwood Barclay’s author reading hosted at Wyndance Golf and Country Club and sponsored by Blue Heron Books of Uxbridge. The author is an easygoing, congenial writer, and he makes no claim to have written literary classics. He likes his genre, writes it well and has achieved international success for it.
Barclay advances most of the story in Never Look Away, with dialogue, relying on minimal setting details to keep the reader interested in the characters.
He effectively describes the lives of a depressed middle-aged couple, writing, She led me into a living room filled with furniture that I was guessing had been handed down to them from their own parents … Cheap landscapes hung so high on the wall they nearly lined up with the ceiling.
And again he captures an unattractive trait of a villain writing, At last night’s dinner at the Big Boy just off the interstate, he’d had his meal half eaten before she had her napkin unfolded on her lap. He was shoveling it in like the restaurant was in flames, and he wanted his fill before his hair caught on fire.
Barclay kept my attention enough to finish the 412 pages it took to string out a conclusion to the mystery. In both books, I was about thirty pages from the end and couldn’t imagine how he would tie up the loose ends in so few pages. But perhaps that’s a sign of a well-written mystery formula – something I had to learn. I wasn’t on the edge of my seat, but for the thriller readers out there, I’d say it’s a satisfying read.