I think I may have to break up with Linwood Barclay. I cannot deny that I was absolutely gripped from start to finish by his runaway smash, No Time For Goodbye. However, it’s been slowly diminishing returns from that point on. Each book has been a little less believable, a little more artlessly constructed and with this book from two years ago, a new low is sadly established. There’s two other published books of his I’ve yet to read, and this year sees his latest book, A Tap On The Window, hit the shelves. But the jury is VERY much out as to whether I can fundamentally be bothered to read any of them.
Hailed as being timely, since pretty much every character in the book has been hit by the recession in some way, it focuses on Glen Garber, an everyman contractor who is feeling the pinch due to the housing crisis. When his wife Sheila dies in a car accident, Glen is naturally torn apart by grief. But then it transpires Sheila was drunk and caused the accident, a fact Glen finds it impossible to reconcile. And in trying to find out what happened, he finds himself drawn into a crazy world of skullduggery and intrigue.
So much of this didn’t work for me. First of all, there is a LOT going on. There are about 1400 sub plots milling around the central story of Glen and Sheila. More than one of them could have been excised without harming the book one iota. Secondly, the jumping between first and third person narration was irksome and jarring. Thirdly, it stretched credibility (and my patience) that so many people were seemingly struggling to make ends meet and turning to a variety of illicit deeds to do so. Yes the recession has been awful and yes it’s impacted on a lot of people, but the whole town seems to be at it. It’s a little much.
As if all that plus the super sketchy and totally flimsy characterisation weren’t enough, when Barclay gathers all the strands of his unwieldy plot and tries to tie them all together, the wheels well and truly come off. The super excited blurb promises that the book builds to “a climax no-one will see coming”. Fair point, but moreover, nobody will believe when it gets here. When the truth behind Sheila’s accident is finally revealed, it’s not shocking. At least, not in the way Barclay intended. It is laughable, completely and totally ridiculous. Maybe this is an off book for him and he pulls it back together for his next one. I can’t decide if I want to find out.