November 08, 2010

BOOKS: Never Look Away, Linwood Barclay (2010)

Here we have a "my family member is missing" thriller, very much in the mold of Harlan Coben's last dozen or so novels, but without the staleness that's crept into Coben's work.

David Harwood is a small-town reporter trying to investigate a possible corruption scandal involving local politicians and the company that wants to build a private prison in town. His bosses at the newspaper, who stand to gain financially if the prison is built, are doing all they can to keep him from reporting the story.

That could make an interesting book on its own, but it's merely the subplot here; the real action gets going when David's wife, Jan, disappears during a visit to the local amusement park. She hadn't been herself lately, and had recently confessed to David that she'd been having suicidal thoughts.

And that sets in motion a tense little thriller, in which David finds himself investigating his own wife and discovering that she'd been keeping more than the usual number of secrets from him.

Barclay does a very nice job of setting up the disappearance, showing us the events leading up to it from David's point of view, then making it clear how, to the police, it all looks suspicious enough to make David the leading suspect.

There is a slightly clunky section early on in which we follow an unnamed character; we know that it's one of two specific people (and that the other is dead), and Barclay drags out the revelation of who it actually is to the point where the avoidance of the name becomes annoying. But once that's out of the way, this is a nicely told story, with cleverly plotted twists and surprises along the way.

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