When Cal Weaver stops at red light on a rainy night while driving home, he ignores the bedraggled-looking teenaged girl trying to hitch a lift. Even when she starts tapping on his window. But when she says, ‘Hey, aren’t you Scott’s dad?’ and he realizes she’s one of his son’s classmates, he can’t really ignore her. OK, so giving a ride to a teenage girl might not be the smartest move, but how much harm could it do?
Over the next 24 hours Cal is about to find out. When the girl, Claire, asks to stop at a restroom on the way home, he’s happy to oblige. But the girl who gets back in the car seems strangely nervous, and it’s only when they get nearer their destination that Cal realizes she no longer has the nasty cut that he noticed on Claire’s hand. After he’s finally let her out of the car he remains puzzled and intrigued. But it’s only the next morning that he starts to really worry. That’s when the police cruiser turns up at his door and asks him if he gave a lift to a girl the previous night. A girl who has now been found brutally murdered.
If Cal is going to clear his name he’s going to have to figure out what Claire was really up to and what part he played in her curious deception. But doing so will involve him in some of the small town of Griffon’s most carefully kept secrets – and a conspiracy as bizarre as it is deadly.
Since he exploded onto the thriller scene with No Time For Goodbye in 2007, Linwood Barclay really hasn’t produced a bad book. They don’t exactly follow a formula, but you can always guarantee they’ll be full of sharp twists and turns and the unexpected, very cleverly plotted, well written, move at breakneck speed, have characters you care about, and the final twist is always something you don’t see coming although the clues were always there. My favourite of his by some considerable distance was his last, Trust Your Eyes (just £2.99 for Kindle at the moment): the characterisation was superb, the world of Whirl360 a brilliant device, and the plot so very taut with all the twists and turns and surprises that Linwood Barclay does so well. I absolutely loved it.
I’m really sorry that I can’t say “I loved it” about his latest book, A Tap On The Window. All the trademarks are there, but somehow diluted and slowed down, and I just didn’t get the thrill I usually get from his books. The story was fine. I hate it when people say this, but it was very in-your-face American – the police chief, Augie, was straight out of The Dukes of Hazzard, and the small town politics passed me by a little. But what really spoiled it for me was the processing of the story through the eyes of Cal Weaver – it just slows everything down, while he works out how whatever’s happened relates to a recent family tragedy. The last third of the book does redeem it a little – the usual twists and turns are there, and the outcome has the usual shock value – but if I was going to recommend a Linwood Barclay book, it wouldn’t really be this one. But everyone is allowed a “blip” – I’ll still look forward to the next one.
Linwood Barclay is married with two children and lives near Toronto. He is a former columnist for the Toronto Star, and is the author of the Richard & Judy 2008 Summer Read winner and number one besteller, NoTime For Goodbye. A Tap On The Window will be published by Orion Books on 10thOctober 2013 in hardback and for Kindle, with the paperback to follow in May 2014.