Find You First, by Linwood Barclay

Eight stars

When it comes to psychological thrillers, Linwood Barclay is one of the best that I’ve read. Keeping the reader in suspense throughout the experience, Barclay crafts wonderful stories that tell an underlying story, while chilling those who venture to delve deeper. When a man of considerable wealth learns he has a serious medical condition, his first thought is to warn those with his genetic make up of the possibility that they might have inherited it. This proves more difficult, as the only children he’s sired were those who came from a sperm bank. Obtaining the list, it’s a race to let them know, as well as connect with those who never knew their biological father. However, someone else is targeting this same group, as some go missing. Could this be one of the heirs, who would gain that much less of the inheritance promised them? It’s a race to discover the truth, with sinister forces hiding in the shadows.

Miles Cookson has enjoyed a successful life. Working in the tech industry, he’s been able to amass a large sum of money along the way, though never had a spouse or children to share his riches. When Cookson learns that he has a terminal illness, he is understandably distraught, but it also starts a mission that he has put off for too long.

Twenty years ago, Cookson chose to make multiple donations to a local sperm bank, well before he had earned his riches. Now, he is adamant that he must discover the names and location of those children who were born with his help. Not only does he want to inform them about the illness, but has decided to divide his inheritance amongst them all.

After some strong arming, Cookson gets the list and begins his visits, which includes a call on Chloe Swanson, a young filmmaker who has been trying to document the blurry parts of her past as well. Together, Cookson and Swanson try their best to track down the others, only to discover that some have simply disappeared. What’s even more baffling is that the homes in which these people live have been scribbled clean, as though any trace of them could prove troubling.

While Cookson and Swanson forge onwards, the question lingers as to who else might have a copy of the list and whether they might be trying to shorten the list of offspring to share the inheritance. When Cookson discovers an even more troubling piece of news about the fertility clinic, the mission to locate these children takes on new meaning, though it could only up the violence even more. A chilling story that proves Linwood Barclay is a master in the genre, leaving readers baffled with every page flip.

I have read some authors who use psych thrillers to promote serial killers and gruesome murders. While I enjoy those to a degree, Barclay uses a more spine-tingling approach to present his stories, one that keeps the reader guessing and tripping over all the twists. The subtleties woven into the narrative and random mentions of Canada (who does not like those?) help to make me feel a stronger connection to the book. Barclay has a knack for this type of writing and I am eager to keep reading whatever he has to offer.

With the story shifting through a number of narrative approaches, the reader can see protagonist roles being offered to many, by primarily Miles and Chloe. Both come from such different backgrounds that their backstories contrast perfectly and the development they show is formidable. Readers can latch onto what they experience without being too distracted from the premise of the novel and they both provide some insights into what is actually going on within the novel. I thoroughly enjoyed the perspectives they brought and definitely wanted more throughout the novel.

The handful of impactful secondary characters throughout the book offer the reader some interesting flavouring into the plot development and how the protagonists are able to forge ahead. There is a complex web of scenarios taking place throughout and the need for strong individuals to push the story along forces Barclay to pay close attention to everyone who makes it to the printed page. There is a great deal to tackle here, which Barclay does well, as has been my experience with many of his past novels as well.

The premise of the novel—man seeks to find his long-long children and deliver news—may not be entirely unique, but Linwood Barclay found a way to add layers of excitement and intrigue from the opening pages. There is so much going on within each chapter that the reader will have to play close attention, being a part of the developing narrative throughout. Short to mid-length chapters keep the reader guessing and wondering, all while trying to make sense of what’s really taking place, a trademark Barclay style. With believable characters in a realistic setting, there is little the story is missing to make a wonderful read any time of the year. I always look forward to Barclay’s work, as it never quite answers all the questions posed in the story, a sort of earwig with which the reader must grapple well after putting the book down at the end. Pure genius!

Kudos, Mr. Barclay, for another winner. While some may not find things as gripping, I love your style and hope you keep things going for your upcoming publications.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: