Monday, August 30, 2010

"Never Look Away" by Linwood Barclay

David Harwood is a reporter with wife and young son. He takes them on a trip to an amusement park in the hope that it might cheer up his wife, who has been hinting at depression and suicidal thoughts. When his wife disappears from the park, he finds himself unable to prove she was even there. As more facts come to light, he finds himself a suspect in his wife's disappearance. While Detective Barry Duckworth collects evidence against him, David must find out what secrets are in his wife's past and whether she's the victim of a conspiracy - or the one behind it all.

I've previously read "No Time For Goodbye" and "Too Close To Home" by Linwood Barclay and found them to be great thrillers, in the same style as Harlan Coben. "Never Look Away" gets off to a good start, but there really isn't enough plot here to sustain the novel for its entire length. This one comes off as something you might see adapted into a TV movie - once the big reveal (which in itself is pretty predictable) is done and dusted, there isn't much else place for it to go. And the further the book goes along, the more David seems like a bit of a nitwit. However, despite the lack of twists in the narrative, Barclay is still able to generate considerable suspense. This is due mainly to very strong characterisation. The characters and their relationships are exceptionally well-drawn, making you care about what happens to them. And isn't this what a good novel should do? Even though the plot wasn't as twisty as I was hoping it to be, I was still hooked by the events because I wanted to find out what happened to the people involved. In particular, the relationship between David and his four-year-old son Ethan was very natural and believable, providing an on-going explanation and motivation for all of David's actions. A subplot involving the owner of a profit-based prison wanting to buy land in David's town takes up more room than it should, considering it really doesn't have much to do with Jan's disappearance, and there is about one ending too many. The saddest thing really is that, while an average thriller, "Never Look Away" is probably a lot better than most of the stuff out there on the shelves right now.

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