Never Look Away

I used to use the I am Reading plugin in my sidebar to feature my book of the moment, but I did away with it, along with all the other unnecessary stuff some time ago. As I explained to a friend just last night, does anybody really care and just what is it I’m trying to say by advertising my latest read?

For a start, I might think the book I’m reading is rubbish {it happens} and I might not even finish it, but you have no way of knowing that on the basis of a casual, automated free ad that you will probably, and rightly, ignore anyway. So if I’m going to make a recommendation, I should be up front about it. Starting with this one.

Linwood Barclay is one of the few authors whose work I am happy to buy in hardback. I say this as if it is a regular event which it isn’t as he has written only four bestsellers including his first, No Time for Goodbye, published in the UK in 2008.*

For Never Look Away Barclay returns to the small New York State town of Promise Falls first featured in Too Close to Home. There is a reference to the now disgraced former mayor, Randy Finley, and lawyer Natalie Bondurant makes an appearance, but the only main connecting character is the likeable, overweight police detective, Barry Duckworth.

The story begins with a visit to the local amusement park by the Harwood family. David Harwood and his four year old son, Ethan, go in alone while his wife Jan goes back to the car to collect a forgotten backpack. They meet up inside and while David goes to buy an ice-cream, Ethan and his buggy disappear.

After frantically chasing round the park, David finds his son safe and asleep, but when he gets back to the main entrance, his wife isn’t waiting for them as agreed. And she doesn’t reappear. As the evidence begins to build, Detective Duckworth becomes more and more convinced that she has been murdered by David.

David Harwood is a reporter on the Standard, the struggling local newspaper. He grew up in Promise Falls and has never shown any burning ambition in his career. Jan works for a local air-conditioning company while David’s parents, Don and Arlene are handy childminders.

There are some things going on that David is trying to report on, but for the most part his is a very ordinary life. That is what Barclay does best — ordinary, decent people who get caught up in extraordinary events that confuse and baffle them.

The other thing he is good at is dialogue. It is witty, but in a natural and uncontrived way, the sort of conversation you can imagine taking place even in the direst situation. It also does as much to build the characters as the narrative.

If I have a criticism, it is that the villains of the piece are rather pantomime, but this doesn’t really matter as they are merely the catalysts for a very strange turn of events.

Never Look Away is a well-plotted thriller that moves you along at the same pace as the main character, from wondering what on earth is going on to trying to work out why. It also has a satisfactory conclusion that his last book lacked.

On the must-read-ometer, I would give it five out of five. Meanwhile here is the promo video in which Linwood Barclay reveals more.

* Barclay has previously written four Zach Walker books and an autobiographical memoir of his teenage years in Ontario, but I haven’t read them.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

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