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Book Author: Linwood Barclay

TRUST YOUR EYES by Linwood Barclay: Book Review

Linwood Barclay has done it again, creating a fascinating novel that’s nearly impossible to put down.  Actually, Trust Your Eyes is impossible to put down, as is every other Barclay book I’ve read.

Ray Kilbride has returned home to upper New York State after the death of his father, in part to determine what’s best for his younger brother.  Thomas is a high-functioning schizophrenic, obsessed with mapping all the streets in the world; he’s convinced that there will be a catastrophe in which all maps will be destroyed.

When, not if, he believes that will happen, Thomas will be the only one in the world who has the knowledge that the maps had held.  He’s been “in contact” with the CIA and former President Bill Clinton and has assured them of his abilities and cooperation in this matter.  In order to concentrate on this, Thomas has hardly left his house in several years.  He leaves his room only to have three quick meals a day and then returns to continue his memorization project.

One day, while on the web’s Whirl360 site, Thomas sees what looks like a person’s head wrapped in a plastic bag.  For as long as he looks at the window where the head is, it doesn’t move.  Could he possibly be seeing a murder taking place?

In Linwood Barclay’s adept hands, this is the main thread of the mystery but not the only one.  Allison Fitch, a young woman working as a waitress in lower Manhattan, is having money troubles.  Her salary isn’t big enough to cover her part of the rent for the apartment she shares or for all the clothes she buys, so she’s always doing a little creative financing.  At first it’s innocent enough, if not very nice, as she spins a story to her mother in order to get her mother to send her a thousand dollars.  But it turns dangerous when she decides to turn to blackmail to get sufficient funds to finally pay all her debts.

And then there are the political figures, killers-for-hire, and FBI agents coming to the Kilbrides’ house to talk to Thomas about his frequent e-mails to the CIA.  If you think this won’t all hang together to make a fantastic thriller, you obviously don’t know Linwood Barclay.

The characters in Trust Your Eyes are totally believable, as is the plot.  Sometimes the most seemingly innocent or innocuous decisions have grave consequences.  If Ray Kilbride hadn’t come home to straighten out his father’s affairs and decide about his brother’s future, he wouldn’t have seen the Whirl360 web site and gone to Manhattan to investigate what his brother thought was a murder.  If Allison Fitch hadn’t turned the television on at a particular moment, the blackmail plot would never have entered her mind.  And if Nicole had won the Olympic gold medal in gymnastics instead of the silver, she might not have become a professional assassin.

Linwood Barclay is a master of his craft.  You can read more about him at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Reads blog at her web site.

BAD MOVE by Linwood Barclay: Book Review

“For years, I envied my friend Jeff Conklin, who, at the age of eleven, found a dead guy.” I ask you, who could resist a line like that?

Bad Move, by Linwood Barclay, has that as its opening line.  And it just gets better.

Writing a humorous mystery is obviously very hard to do since so many writers fail at doing it.  Barclay, in what was his first novel, does a perfect job combining laugh-out-loud humor with a cleverly plotted story.  There are so many seemingly throw-away lines in the novel that end up tying the story into a perfect package that at the end I was truly impressed by Barclay’s cleverness.  Backpacks thrown down where they shouldn’t be, a teenager’s desire for a tattoo, a man lacking a sense of smell–the items of real importance are mixed so cleverly with the red herrings that I didn’t recognize them for what they were. Barclay must be familiar with Anton Chekhov’s line, “One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it.”  All of Barclay’s rifles were aimed well and fired.

Zack Walker and his family have moved from Toronto, although that city isn’t named in the book, to the suburbs for what he views as a safer life.  Zack sees danger everywhere–keys left in the car in the driveway (a car thief might be lurking), a hair blower in the bathroom sink (possible electrocution), a front door left unbolted (a burglar’s dream).  But his every effort to try to impart cautionary tales to his wife and teenage son and daughter lead them to see him as a paranoid control freak, if not worse.  But, unable to stop himself from “teaching them a lesson,” he blunders on and eventually lands in the middle of corruption and murder in his safe, suburban environment.

It’s clear that Zack only wants to teach his family important lessons, but each one makes him appear more foolish than the one before. In his attempt to show his wife that she shouldn’t leave her purse in her shopping cart when she moves to another aisle, he slips the bag under his jacket and goes to his car to hide it in the trunk.  He waits there for his wife to leave the store, upset that her bag has been stolen.  But when she gets into his car, she has no purse and isn’t upset.  She tells him that she’s realized that wearing a fanny pack is easier than carrying her heavy purse while she’s shopping, so in fact she didn’t have her purse with her at all.  So who’s purse does Zack have in his car?  The story goes on from there.

Chapter 15, in which Zack and his son attend a parent-teacher meeting with the son’s science teacher, is the funniest piece of writing I’ve read anywhere in years. The beauty of it is that it’s totally a part of the story.   It’s not humorous lines gratuitously thrown in to make the reader laugh but rather a deeper look into the mind of the hero and his total obliviousness to how his son and the teacher view his actions during the meeting.  It’s funny and true at the same time.

My only regret after reading Bad Move was that I had never heard of the author until he was recommended to me a couple of weeks ago.  He’s a top-selling novelist in Canada and the United Kingdom and the author of several more books following Zack Walker, in addition to stand alone thrillers.  I guess I’ve got a lot of catching-up to do.

You can learn more about Linwood Barclay at his web site.