Look Both Ways, by Linwood Barclay

Eight stars

Always eager to read Linwood Barlcay’s novels, I made some time in my schedule for this one. Combining his well-established talent with a life-long obsession of cars, Barclay entertains the reader while forcing them to think on just how technology could turn against us. With his stellar writing style leading the way, Barclay shows us a different side to his craft, which is equally as enthralling as his usual publications.

It’s a big day for Garrett Island, a small community that is about to help launch a new innovation in transportation. With all gas-consuming automobiles banned from the island, locals have been using Arrivals, the latest in self-driving technology. Operated by voice commands, Arrivals transport people all over the island, obeying all laws and virtually taking any worry out of being on the road. Just sit back and enjoy the scenery.

While many have been panning the experiment of self- driving vehicles, Sandra Montrose is counting on it to boost her image as a press relations exec with Arrival. She needs something good in her life, after the loss of her husband and straying of her teenage children. Sandra cannot see anything that could go wrong, as the cars appear perfectly in tune with what they need to do, which is garnering a great deal of positive feedback all over the United States.

However, disaster strikes and things go horribly wrong. With no other form of transportation on the island, the glitch has left people running for cover as the Arrivals appear to take on a life of their own. Panic ensues and people are soon targets for these dream cars. It’s only a matter of time before things turn deadly and there are many around the island who are fighting their own battles with these machines.

Part Christine and part Terminator, the story takes on a life of its own from a variety of perspectives. As each sub-plot inches closer to the centre, things come together and the truth behind the Garrett Island disaster becomes clear. However, could anyone have predicted what the end result would be or who might end up on the losing end? Linwood Barclay at his best in this one, which stirs up as many questions as it does answers.

There’s something about the work of Linwood Barclay that always has me coming back for more. His acerbic wit combined with a great ability to tell a story keeps the reader inthe middle of the action. Always eager to see how his plots will develop, I devour his books and find myself captivated with whatever is going on around me. I can only hope others see the same thing and end up just as taken aback.

Linwood Barclay provides a strong opening to lure the reader in, while keeping them guessing what is to coming. The narrative gains momentum and provides the perfect guide to what is sure to be a soapbox moment on technology and the sacredness of automobiles. However, with a cast of characters ready to explore all angles of vehicular technology, the story keeps developing while plots emerge. It is only when the reader is neck-deep into the tale that they find themselves unable to put the book down, waiting as new issues arise and any sort of resolution seems futile. As the multiple narrative perspectives collide, Barclay brings things home effectively and with purpose, leaving the reader fully embedded in the story at this point. A chilling tale that has hints of past car-based horror stories worth a few twists to keep things uniquely Linwood Barclay.

Kudos, Mr. Barclay, for keeping me hooked until the very end. I cannot wait to see what else you have in store for fans soon.

Take Your Breath Away, by Linwood Barclay

Eight stars

Always a pleasure to read the work of Linwood Barclay, I reached for this book. Barclay spins quite the story, exploring a case in which a woman long-thought dead appears and how her six years away can be explained. Struggling with piecing it all together, the protagonist does all he can to keep his name clean while getting to the bottom of what actually happened Barclay uses his great writing style to pen a winner that will pull the reader into the middle of the mystery before offering a larger perspective and answers to all the questions. An entertaining read that will surely leave the reader wondering where the time went as they fly through the story in short order.

When Brie Mason disappeared while her husband, Andrew, was away, everyone was sure he’d killed her and hidden the body. Andrew vowed that he had nothing to do with it and did all he could to clear his name. Unable to quiet all the critics, Andrew changed his name and tried to begin anew.

When, six years later, Brie appears outside her old home, the neighbours begin talking and reach out to Andrew. Could Brie be back, after leaving no trace for the last number of years? Andrew rushes to follow-up on this, but must also explain the situation to his current partner, who knew nothing about Brie’s disappearance or the allegations made against Andrew.

As Andrew’s life shatters once more, he is left to wonder if his wife is back and what’s happened to her for all these years. The detective working the case has new questions, as does Brie’s family. When, in the heat of the moment, another body is found murdered, many wonder if this is all part of a larger plan to implicate Andrew and resurrect the allegations that he had his wife killed while he was away. It’s a fast-paced story with so many threads that must be tied off, the reader will surely get a little whiplash as Barclay weaves his tale for all to enjoy. A chilling piece that had me flipping pages just to get answers, before it all fell into place!

I have long enjoyed the work of Linwood Barclay, usually because things take on such a high intensity, there is little time to relax. The stories are always well-plotted and the narrative speeds along, forcing the reader to hold on or get lost in the dust cloud that is created. Stellar storytelling and eerily strong plot releases prove that Barclay is at the top of his game and genre.

Linwood Barclay opens his novel with what could only be called an innocent vignette, which turns out to be the hint at something more sinister to come. The narrative builds from there and soon there is little hope of stopping things to catch one’s breath. A handful of strong characters, none of whom are all that out of the normal realm, emerge and the plot thickens, as layers of narrative development overtake what appeared to be a simple case of a missing woman. As past and present collide, Barclay balances both effectively and the reader is able to piece things together with some ease, while still scratching their head to determine how it all happened and what will bring things together in the present. Never disappointed with a Barclay read, I add this to another winner for me, which has me itching for more, when I can find something of his I have not read.

Kudos, Mr. Barclay, for another winner. I cannot wait to locate another of your novels to continue this electric feeling.

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: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Mike Harris Made Me Eat My Dog, by Linwood Barclay

Eight stars

Long have I been a fan of Linwood Barclay and his collection of psychological thrillers, particularly because he is Canadian. Before he got into the world of thrillers, Barclay worked and wrote for newspapers in Ontario, using his wit and dry humour to impress many a reader. Those who did not live in Ontario in the mid-1990s would likely not have been privy to the wonders of Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution, when the Progressive Conservatives returned to power and sought to tighten the provincial belt. These measures did not go over well with many, including the media, who mocked some of the lame-brain ideas that did not make sense to anyone. Barclay explores the Harris revolution and the silliness that the Government of Ontario’s ideas meant in the real world through a series of chapters that drip with sarcasm. From cutting money to education (scrapping textbooks too) and trying to say that teachers were refusing to be inventive; offering tax breaks to many across the province and then trying to tackle a deficit (hoping that it would all work somehow); and even trying to nip environmental costs to safe a buck and wondering why Ontarians could not pick up the slack. Barclay’s mockery is just that, poking fun, but he makes some great points and leaves the reader interested in what there is to say on the topic. While I did not live in the province during the height of these tumultuous times, I always enjoy a good piece of political mockery. It’s surely a dated piece and one whose audience may be solely those who lived through or remembered the Common Sense Revolution, but I needed something lighter and it did the trick. Linwood Barclay shows that underneath that eerie writer would can pull a reader in with a stellar psychological thriller looms a man who is destined to poke a little fun at poor decisions by the government.

Kudos, Mr. Barclay, for a lighter look at politics. This book, paired with your more recent piece on Rob Ford, were the ideal short political satire pieces that kept me smiling.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Ford AbomiNation, by Linwood Barclay

Eight stars

My experience with Linwood Barclay has solely been with his stellar novels of fiction and intrigue. Before he became a bestselling author, Barclay was a humour writer for a Toronto newspaper. This piece, full of dry wit and sarcasm (my language!), has Barclay using his sharp pen (and tongue) to offer some analysis of what is going on in Ontario with Premier Doug Ford. While readers are best to have some foreknowledge of the Ford Nation and Ontario politics, the humour-filled narrative is enough to fill in many of the gaps any outsider has in their understanding. Barclay, pulls no punches as he mocks, teases, and lightheartedly dismantles the current Progressive Conservative leader’s ideas and acts, listing all those who are on the hit list for reasons unknown. As autistic students suffer his budgetary pen and vehement speeches, the sex education curriculum would have Ward Cleaver tipping is pipe towards Ford. Ontario’s forests beware, as there is a massive extension to Toronto’s subways needed to get to the Ford summer cottage, and books… who reads them and so why should we offer publishing incentives? Barclay shows that Ford is Canada’s Trump (and yes, the premier has a degree from Trump University), willing to do what he thinks and with sycophants lapping up his every word. With a similarly indoctrinating premier here in Alberta, we are surely on our way to a similar demise, set to be the laughing stock of left and centre-right Canadians before long. Recommended to those who need a humorous boost, as well as the reader who wants to explore some of the lighter parts of Canadian provincial politics.

This is a short piece, just over 100 printed pages (and close to 2 hours of audio). For the reader who needs to sit back, the audiobook is read by Linwood Barclay himself, who injects all the humour from off the page. In a zippy narrative, Barclay lays out all his arguments and wraps them in sarcasm, such that any Ford officials would be tied-up for days to see that they are the brunt of jokes. Short chapters handle a variety of topics that allows this to be read in a single sitting, while leaving them feeling better educated, or at least protected from all the dastardly ideas that spew from Queen’s Park (Ontario’s legislature) until the Ontario electorate is able to offer their voice on what is going on. While Barclay might have penned this to offer staunch mockery, his seriousness cannot be lost on the attentive reader. Proof positive why I enjoy Linwood Barclay’s writing so much. Fiction or non-, I cannot get enough!

Kudos, Mr. Barclay, for giving me a few giggles as I shake my head from out West! God help us if you, or another, seek to develop something about our Jason Kenney!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Elevator Pitch, by Linwood Barclay

Eight stars

I was pleased to get my hands on the latest Linwood Barclay novel, as I find the author never fails to keep me thinking throughout a reading experience. Barclay turns the relatively mundane elevator into a masterful inanimate antagonist in this piece that may leave readers debating whether to ‘take the stairs’ next time. It was a Monday like any other in New York City, until it wasn’t. When an elevator plummets in a Manhattan office tower, four are dead and Mayor Richard ‘Dick’ Headley is forced to do some damage control. In the Office of the Mayor, anyone who can seeks to spin this and turn it on poor inspector records, though there is barely any time to breathe before new fires emerge. A gritty journalist, Barbara Matheson, wants answers and Headley’s head on a platter. She rushes to the scene and discovers a personal tie to the accident, one she was not expecting. Meanwhile, NYPD Detectives Bourque and Delgado are called to the scene of a body found by a jogger. They run the few leads they have and identify the victim as an elevator repairman, but there is still no clear motive for his murder. When another elevator plummets on Tuesday, all eyes turn to Mayor Headley, who is scrambling to keep his city at ease while wondering what is going on. Further acts of violence, including a bombing and yet another elevator mishap lead some to wonder if this is the work of a domestic terror organization seeking to push their message out however they can. When it is discovered that someone has planted cameras in all the elevators that crashed, new theories about how one might be able to ‘remotely control’ the elevators emerges, only fuelling the idea that this might be a form of terrorism. Barbara Matheson works her magic and finds a parallel between all three locations of the elevator malfunctions, which could cause havoc if it’s released too soon. While the world watches, New Yorkers are left paralyzed as all elevators are shut down by decree of the mayor. Political suicide, perhaps, but there has to be an answer somewhere in all of this. Barclay offers a thrilling ride that will leave all readers a little less certain about what they would do when arriving in a lobby of a multi-storey building. Recommended to those who love a good thriller, as well as readers who are longtime fans of Linwood Barclay.

I can usually count on Linwood Barclay to serve up a wonderful novel that will send chills up my spine and cause many of my brain synapses to spark. His ideas are well plotted, though there is usually a twist or two that could not have been predicted. With a wide cast of characters, it is hard to choose a single as the protagonist. The reader can learn a little more about Detective Jerry Bourque and the personal struggles he has on the job, while trying to solve this murder, or they might want to focus their attention on Mayor Headley, who is always keen on spinning things to go in his direction. The character development of Barbara Matheson is intriguing, both from a personal and professional angle. She has a gritty nature to her, but it is surely one the reader will enjoy, given the opportunity to envelop themselves in her backstory. There are many other characters from which the reader can choose when focussing their attention. Some may say this multi-layer story can distract the reader, but I find that it all connects together on some level and serves to permit a variety of views on a single, large event. The entertainment factor is high yet again, as Barclay uses this multi-character approach, pulling the reader in deeper. The story itself was quite ingenious, taking something as simple as an elevator and turning it into a weapon. The plot moves along well,, not rushing but also not dragging, as Barclay seeks to give the reader something to ponder while the story advances. With a mix of chapter lengths and just the right amount of suspense built in, the reader can follow as the narrative gathers momentum. There is certainly a great pace here and I can only hope readers find themselves as enthralled as I was in this piece. I may stay away from elevators for a while… or take the risk!

Kudos, Mr. Barclay, for another great novel. I can always count on a wonderful story when you are at the helm.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

A Noise Downstairs, by Linwood Barclay

Eight stars

Linwood Barclay can always be relied upon to put forth exciting novels that creep up the spine, leaving the reader questioning what they’ve just read. His ability to develop a psychological thriller puts him in league with some of the top in the genre, thereby strengthening his fan base. Paul Davis is a college professor who was out on a late evening drive. After coming upon the vehicle of his colleague, Paul stops to help, only to be attacked and almost killed. Eight months later, Paul is trying to come to terms with the head injury he suffered that night, while his wife, Charlotte, must try to acclimate to her husband’s constant forgetfulness. She purchases an old typewriter for him, in hopes that it will help him process some of the feelings and thoughts that came from the attack. Paul has also engaged the services of a therapist, Dr. Anna White, who is helping him come to terms with the entire ordeal. When Paul wakes in the night, hearing a clacking sound that could be no other than the typewriter, he rushes to see, but there is nothing there. Worried, Charlotte tries to help her husband come to terms with what must be his subconscious brain playing tricks on him. Dr. White goes so far as to concur, hoping that her patient will find solace rather than constant distress with this new form of therapeutic release. Meanwhile, Dr. White has another patient whose past is indicative of severe and inexplicable revenge tendencies, seeking to topple the apple carts of many others for his own peace of mind. The more she tries to help, the less it appears to work. With Paul’s ongoing traumatic situation, now morphed into messages spewing from paper left in the typewriter at night, one can only surmise that there may be something supernatural happening, which is only further supported when it would appear that it was the same typewriter as the man who attacked Paul; someone who had forced previous victims to write letters of apology before he killed them. With all this coming to a head, Paul forges on to make sense of it all, while Charlotte becomes increasingly worried. Has her husband lost all touch with reality? Could his memory loss be responsible for him writing these messages at night, but not remembering? And how can one completely explain that noise of the typewriter clanking in the night? Barclay leaves these and many other questions with the reader, who will likely want to dive in to better understand what is going on. Another brilliant piece by a psychological thriller expert. Recommended for those who enjoy Linwood Barclay’s work or the reader who finds solace in a novel that poses multiple mind games.

I can usually be assured of a top-notch novel when Barclay publishes something and this piece was nothing short of stellar. The mix of well-developed characters, a plausible plot, and just a touch of King-esque paranormal activity (so much so that the characters actually refer to what is going on as having come from a King novel), leaves the reader wanting to push onwards as things get even more complicated. Paul Davis is a wonderfully relatable character who has been through a great ordeal and is only now able to pick up the pieces. He straddles the line between recovery and deeper psychological issues, though there is little doubt that current events with his new gift have pushed him further away from sanity. He struggles to understand it all, though has been able to turn to Anna White to help him. While this does not always work, the reader can see glimpses of sanity in his sporadic activities and memory-debilitating daily life. Anna White proves to be another key character, juggling her own personal issues alongside those of a handful of clients, all of whom pose different risks to themselves and others. The reader will likely find the White character to be very grounded, though also a bit standoffish, as is usually the case when processed through the eyes of a patient. Paul and Anna find themselves in an odd dance to better understand the former’s mental state and while outward signs point to issues, there is surely something else at play. A handful of other characters prop things up and thicken an already strong plot, adding questions and intrigue while riding the narrative’s easy flow. The story is one that might not be entirely unique—an inanimate object takes over and causes a protagonist angst—but the way it is presented in Barclay style leaves the reader to wonder how it all comes together. Things flow well and the story does not get too out of hand, though the reader need keep an open mind until the final chapters to understand what is going on. Barclay has mastered his craft again and it is up to the reader to decide if they are prepared to accept what is on offer.

Kudos, Mr. Barclay, for another wonderful novel. I can only hope your ideas continue to flow, as I have eagerly anticipated many of the pieces you’ve presented in the last numbers of years.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Parting Shot (Promise Falls #4), by Linwood Barclay

Nine stars

Linwood Barclay adds to his already popular Promise Falls series with this latest novel, a mystery that takes readers on an interesting ride into the world of revenge. When Cal Weaver is hired to protect Jeremy Pilford, who was accused of backing over his girlfriend when extremely intoxicated, he cannot predict the degree of difficulty this assignment brings. Seen as having been coddled by his over-protective family, Jeremy earned the nickname ‘Big Baby’ and has been the victim of significant online mockery. The barbs that have sailed around through social media are beginning to take shape in real life, with rocks tossed through windows and death threats showing up in various forms. Weaver decides to help shield Jeremy by taking him into protective custody, at least until things settle down. Meanwhile, Detective Barry Duckworth is sent to investigate an assault that has everyone very confused. Brian Gaffney has been found wandering around Promise Falls, unable to remember what’s happened to him for the past few days. What’s even more concerning is the vulgar phrase that has been tattooed to his back; something apparently related to a dog he killed years ago. As Duckworth begins poking around, he discovers that Gaffney was last seen in a dive bar, though video surveillance sheds some interesting new light on the entire investigation. Nothing seem to make sense, but Duckworth will not give up, even as he seems to be stepping on some familial toes by pressing hard to solve this latest case. When a body is discovered in an abandoned car, things take a significant turn and Duckworth notices an anomaly that might explain the Gaffney assault. While Cal Weaver hides away with Jeremy, they revisit some of the key aspects to the case and something does not seem right. When Duckworth and Weaver are eventually able to compare notes, everything gets a little clearer, only to go opaque once again. Is there something going on in Promise Falls that will halt both Duckworth and Weaver from solving their respective cases? In a style all his own, Barclay pulls the reader into the middle of this wonderful story and will not let go until the very end, where a cliffhanger awaits. Promise Falls series fans will surely enjoy this one, which stands outside the professed ‘trilogy’, but still has close tie-ins throughout the narrative.

I have long been a Linwood Barclay fan, especially his Promise Falls work. The psychological aspects keep me wondering and the slow development is done in such a methodical manner than I cannot help but want more, even when the final chapter is complete. The varied cast in the novels is effectively used, with a strong focus on the Duckworth and Weaver characters. Both men have made their marks in the aforementioned series trilogy, but this novel allows them some additional growth. Barclay surrounds them with a number of repeat minor characters, as well as some new faces to keep the story fresh. Backstories and present-day development is thorough and highly useful to the attentive reader. The story itself, two mysteries that soon find common ground, is quite intriguing, especially with the other branch-off plots that thicken the overall delivery. Barclay is able to keep the different narratives running in parallel without confusing the reader too much. Add to that, things flow so effortlessly that the reader cannot help but want to forge onwards just to see how it will all play out. Wonderfully presented and filled with a number of poignant references to past Promise Falls events, Barclay has surely kept his fans appeased with this novel and is sure to find many new readers rushing to find his books in their various forms.

Kudos, Mr. Barclay, for keeping me hooked from the get-go. I hope you have not ended this trip to upstate New York, as I have become quite fond of Promise Falls.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons