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Never Look Away - Linwood Barclay

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Author: Linwood Barclay / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 23 June 2011 / Genre: Crime & Thriller / Subcategory: Thriller / Suspense General / Publisher: Orion Publishing Co / Title: Never Look Away / ISBN 13: 9780752883366 / ISBN 10: 0752883366

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      29.01.2013 10:44
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      thriller

      Jan Harwood is missing and her husband David is fast becoming the prime suspect at what could be a murder investigation. The story begins with Jan, David and their four year old son Ethan, taking a family day trip to the local amusement park. Someone attempts to abduct Ethan and in the chaos that follows David realises Jan is missing.

      David works as a reporter for a local newspaper based in the small American town where the family live. He is involved in investigating a private for profit take over bid for the local prison. He has received anonymous information about some serious correction surrounding the bid involving people in very high places. David as a man of principle plans to expose the corruption.

      Prior to her disappearance Jan had told David that she had been feeling depressed and can even contemplated taking her own life. David is frantic with worry that Jan may have harmed herself. David's parents are very supportive of the family and have been providing child care for Ethan. As the story progresses it seems that only his parents believe there son is innocent.

      The police investigation is led by inspector Duckworth. We are given an insight into the detective's character that helps to give the story depth. What has happened to Jan and will David be able to prove his innocence? How does the corruption story link in? I am not going to reveal more of the plot as that would spoil the story!

      This is the first book I have read by this author, but it certainly won't be the last! The story begins with real intrigue and continues at a fast pace that made it difficult for me to put down! There are many twists and turns, most of which I didn't anticipate. I did find myself becoming irritated with the character of David at times! That aside all the characters in the book are well portrayed and I really felt I had an understanding of what made them *tick*. As the book progresses it does become quite violent in places and may not be for you if you are at all squeamish. I have to admit to cringing at one point after reading a particularly graphic description of violence! The ending is well crafted and unpredictable!

      Linwood Barclay is Canadian and has written several best selling thrillers including no time for good bye, too close to home and fear the worst. If you enjoy a good thriller and like a fast moving book; then you would probably really enjoy this one! However be aware that there are graphic descriptions of violence included. I am really looking forward to reading more from this author!

      Never look away contains 513 pages and is available from most bookshops including Amazon. The cover price for my paper back version is £7.99.

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        07.10.2011 23:21
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        Decent thriller from Barclay but another weak ending

        No Time For Goodbye was a fast paced thriller from an author that I had never heard of before, Linwood Barclay. A few books on, and the pace is consistent in his stand alone novels, even if there is something very generic about the characters and the plot.

        Never Look Away gives us the familiar Barclay setting: a father who has to unravel a tale and solve the mystery. He and his wife and their toddler are enjoying a day at a theme park when all of a sudden the wife goes missing. Cue the initial surprise, confusion, desperation and panic that you'd expect from such a situation. For David Harwood, this is a confusing nightmare, the sort of one where you just want to wake up. Naturally, we as readers know there's more to the situation than meets the eye, especially if you've already read Barclay's work before. What we don't know is exactly what is going on.

        Barclay doesn't reveal things easily, despite the easy ebb and flow of action, getting the most of emotions out of the reader. I found myself sharing in David's emotions as he tries to find out where his wife Jan is at the same time as looking after Ethan, their son. His parents help out, but it's in exploring Jan's life and history that we start to really see the sort of people we're dealing with. The entrance of a suspicious police chief who does a near Columbo routine on David merely adds to the frustration and confusion that we see the characters experience.

        As per usual, Barclay manages to concoct and weave a thrilling tale that builds and builds and builds. The tension mounts, the characters develop well, and the occasional over the top element gets swallowed up in the sheer pace of the whole thing. Barclay doesn't dwell on the slow and languid development of characters, more the fast and frantic fact giving paragraphs that meld well with the development through conversation and action, bit by bit piecing the characters together until we have a firm picture in our mind.

        The whole thing is so easy to digest that by the time it nears the end you wonder if he can emulate the content with a worthy finale. Sadly, those who are used to his work will expect not, as he has notoriously left us with an unbelievable and rather weal end on more than one occasion, and the fear would be that the same thing would happen here. Personally, I found this to be the case, and although I can say that I'm glad to have read it, and I'll certainly read some more, it was a disappointment when compared with the rest of the book which is well constructed and well woven.

        Barclay certainly has the ability to piece together a marvellous tale that makes it hard to put the book down. Sadly, the ending nearly always lets him down in my eyes, and this was no different. Still recommend reading it, but it's not the masterpiece you hope for as you're going along.

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          16.09.2011 17:43
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          4th book from bestselling authoring Linwood Barclay.

          This is the 4th book by Linwood Barclay, an author who lives in Toronto and who's previous books were all best-sellers.

          David and Jan, along with their 4 year old son Ethan appear to be the perfect family. David, a reporter on the local paper is having some difficulties with changes at work and an investigation that could cause him problems. He has wonderfully supporting parents who help look after Ethan when Jan is working as an assistant in a local air-con business.

          Today though, is a day to let any worries pass by as the family arrange a trip to the local theme park. Jan had been depressed insinuating thoughts of suicide at one point, but hopefully the day will lift her spirits.

          The park is busy and in a split second whilst David gets an ice-cream Ethan is snatched from next to Jan in his stroller. Hysterical, she screams for David, its decided that David will hunt in the park whilst Jan will got to the front gate and security in case the man who snatched him tries to leave.

          David finds Ethan, still in his stroller, fast asleep and unharmed. But David got bigger problems, he cant find Jan, in fact no one can find Jane. CCTV shows that no one of Jans description enters or leaves the park. Only 1 adult and 1 child ticket was bought and David never actually sees Jans park ticket due to the fact she entered the park later having gone back to the car.

          Thus begins our mystery, where is Jan, whats happened to her? Is it connected to a recent investigation David is doing? Or is it just a case of spousel homicide, was she even in the park in the first case?
          Ah, I'm not going to give it away!

          Its incredibly difficult to write this review without giving too much away so I'm really going to have to watch my step!

          The characters are for the most part interesting. The characters of David and his father are probably the best portrayed. David comes across less than an avenging warrior than a plodding foot soldier, discovering the truth, with sparks of these mad theories. He does have these moments of complete bafflement though, this does manage to elicit a small amount of sympathy for us and his ordeal, all the emotion does seem to be saved up for Ethan though who's desperately missing his mother.
          His father is the grounder, the sensible one who mends things as he goes along. His dad is the person I warmed to most, he obviously loves and protects his family and would have liked to see him have more action in the book.

          Other characters fall slightly flat. David is trying to expose Elmot Sebastian who wants to build a private prison in the town. Bad guy, businessman, threatens family, career, etc. Read it before. Barry Duckworth, the police detective investigating Jans disappearance. He plays good cop, bad cop convinced David murdered his wife. Archetypal generic fiction cop, he visits various witnesses and usually ends up eating pie, not really that interesting.
          And unfortunately most of the characters are the same, generic. Davids boss looking for more reasons to save money, his senior boss desperate to bring the truth into the open but constrained by family honour. Elmonts bodyguard, bad man staying bad, other later characters are also stereotypical. I've seen it all before.

          That was the problem, get generic characters and there's nothing new or unique. The more you read the more familiar it sounds. I've come across these characters, the plot and the twists and turns in many other books and films. I kept reading waiting for the twist that would set this book apart from the rest and it didn't happen, it was more like just waiting for the inevitable. And if you havent guessed the inevitable by around, say page 150, then you really havent read it properly!

          It's more than that, it's lazy, the characters are lazy, the writing is lazy, there's nothing in Barclays story to give the reader any emotional connection. I found it impossible to feel sorrow for any character in the book, little Ethan is probably the character you feel sorry for most. But if you cant get the reader to feel sorry for a little boy who's lost his mother then you shouldnt be an author! His usual excellent style of writing is missed here in what seems to be an attempt to get it written and down as soon as possible. One might think he was just fulfilling a contract to get this book written or he was late turning it in to his publisher so had to write it as quick as possible.

          It began so well but I'm deeply disappointed in this book, especially as I really enjoyed 'No Time For Goodbye'. I'm only recommending you borrow it from the library or buy it in a discount bookshop. For an avid reader of crime it's certainly not worth the whole £7.99

          Orion
          Published: 2010
          ISBN 9780752883366

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            11.01.2011 22:39
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            totally brilliant and gripping story, you wont be able to put it down!

            This was one of the best books I have read in the last couple of years, I have read all of Linwood Barclay's books and they have all been utterly amazing. He has the ability to grab you from the very first line and he doesnt let you go.
            In this gripping story, a married man is left torn apart after his wife of 5 years disappears at an amusement park on the same day that someone attempts to abduct their son. He is frantic with worry yet something doesnt add up......information comes to light and the finger of suspicion soon turns on him.

            I was completely drawn into the story, you can feel how frustrated and angry the guy is.....good stuff! Nothing better than reading a great story that comes alive in your mind.

            This is honestly one of the most gripping story lines ever, and I cant wait for his next novel.
            I finished this in under 2 days, I just couldnt stop reading...of course I didnt manage to do any house work though!!

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              05.12.2010 16:20
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              Worth a read, but would have been better if revelations came later in the story.

              A couple of years back I read 'No Time For Goodbye' by Linwood Barclay and thoroughly enjoyed it. The author's following books however, weren't as good in my opinion. An opinion which many readers agreed with going by the reviews of those books. So when Barclay's new novel, 'Never Look Away' was released this year, my expectations weren't high, although the blurb on the back of the book looked promising.

              On a trip to a local amusement park, journalist David Harwood is looking forward to a great day out with his wife Jan, and four-year-old son Ethan.
              David is hoping the day out will help lift his wife's spirits as she seems to have been depressed lately, seeming ok one minute, then a black mood would suddenly descend upon her. What has been even more worrying for David, is that his wife appears to be having thoughts of suicide and a bandage on her wrist has made him suspect she has attempted self-harm.

              So when Jan announces she has booked tickets for them to visit the Five Mountains amusement park, David sees it as an attempt to get things back on track and enjoy life once more.
              However, what should have been a day of fun turns into a nightmare. Events which take place on arriving at the park, build up to what becomes a nightmare. In the midst of all this, David and Jan become separated and after trying in vain to contact her via her mobile phone and getting no answer, David contacts the park security and reports her missing.
              Trying to brush aside the terrifying thoughts that Jan is planning to take her own life, David's nightmare worsens as he finds he is unable to prove that his wife was ever in the park at all. Suddenly David's story starts to look suspicious, enough for the police to wonder if Jan is indeed dead, but instead of suicide, David finds himself suspected of murder.

              How can David prove he hasn't had a hand in his wife's disappearance? And more importantly to David, where is Jan?
              Not knowing whether his wife is dead or alive and not understanding what has gone wrong, David finds he has to confront the possibility that his life was not exactly what he believed it to be, whilst trying desperately to prove his innocence.

              'Never Look Away' grips the reader from the start as the story begins at the trip to the amusement park. Told in mainly the first person, from David's perspective, I quickly found myself absorbed in the story from the very first page. I was left intrigued after the first few pages, when the story then goes back to twelve days earlier and the events leading up to the day at the amusement park.
              Here we get a little insight into David's life as a journalist for a local paper and his work on a story attempting to uncover bribery and scheming taking place, which are linked to plans to bring a private prison to his hometown. Life at the paper is proving frustrating and stressful and added to that he is struggling to understand his wife's erratic behaviour.

              I found David a likeable character, a normal family man who loves his wife and young son. It was easy to warm to his character, where as the character of Jan, you find you are immediately suspicious of, which of course is intentional by the author and adds to the tension. I found I was very wary of her and was intrigued by her character, after the initial events left me keen to read on. At this stage I felt the book held great promise. The writing was good, the story was exciting and building into what I thought and hoped would be a tense thriller with some good twists.

              Unfortunately, around 150 pages into this 415 page novel, I felt an immediate disappointment when hints were provided that enabled me to realise the answer to what had been one of the most important questions in my mind up until then.
              My initial thoughts on realising this were ones of dismay, as I thought it was something that should have not been disclosed or hinted at until later in the book. From that moment on, from that first clue, I found I was able to predict the following events, which took away much of the excitement for me and ultimately what had started out so well, left me feeling disappointed.
              I also started to become frustrated and at times annoyed by the character of David and could not understand why he acted the way he did at times. I began to struggle a little with his character.

              The other characters in the book apart from David and Jan, I thought were very good. Their individual characters were developed just enough and were quite interesting as Barclay gives subtle hints that allow you to suspect nearly every character of not being who they are meant to be.
              Thankfully there were also no long drawn out descriptions or needless background information included. I particularly enjoyed the character of Detective Duckworth, who wants to believe David, however when the evidence appears to be stacking up against him, the detective's struggle to continue to believe in David is very well written.
              Duckworth is a thorough, but likeable Detective and a little humour is thrown in surrounding his diet. As he is given carrot sticks etc by his wife in his lunch box in a bid to help him lose weight, a funny moment occurs when he has to explain to his wife how he has ended up with apple pie and ice cream on his shirt. There are a couple of moments such as this which lighten the tension and are cleverly placed in the story.

              I am a big fan of the author Harlan Coben, and what I love about his books is his ability to build a tense thriller with plenty of twists that leave you guessing right up until the end. Maybe my expectations are too high as Coben is indeed the master of thriller writing in my opinion and many have tried to copy his style. Indeed Linwood Barclay here is an author who is recommended to fans of Coben and you can see why. However, the comparisons end where Barclay allows the reader to correctly guess at what is going to happen most of the time, this doesn't happen with a Coben thriller.

              The saving grace here and why I said 'most of the time' is that despite correctly guessing what was going on and what was going to happen for much of the book, there were also a couple of decent twists I did not foresee and for me these twists rescued the book and prevented it from being an overall disappointment.
              Having said that, the ending did not come as any surprise and it ended up just how I thought it would.

              I am not sorry I read 'Never Look Away', it does have its good points and Barclay is a good writer. The basis of the story is good, even if the plot is a little far-fetched at times. The writing, the characters and the pace of the book is good too, but I just felt that the author gave too much away too soon. I do think that I have been spolied by reading so many Coben novels though and bearing this in mind would still recommend this as a decent thriller and worth a read.

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                20.11.2010 13:04
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                Not a very gripping read for me.

                The Harwood family are off for a day out at Five Mountains amusement park. David is hoping that the trip with four-year-old son Ethan will help his wife Jan with her recent depression, which has consisted of her mentioning suicide. The day however, turns into the start of a complete nightmare, which sees this family being turned upside down.

                David ends up becoming separated from Jan, and Ethan has been seemingly kidnapped. After searching desperately he does find Ethan, still asleep in his stroller, but after continuous searching David still can not find Jan. He immediately gets the police involved, his thoughts filled with terrifying visions of Jan taking her own life however, just when he thought this whole situation couldn't get any worse, it does. The police don't believe Jan was ever in the park at all, and David can't see, to prove it. CCTV shows no footage of Jan, only of David and Ethan, and David becomes even more confused when the police reveal that only 2 tickets were ever bought online for the park, and Jan had booked those.

                As much as the plot sounds rather exciting to this book, I failed to gain any excitement from reading it. It did start off rather well after the initial event, I was intrigued into just who Jan was and where she had gone, but as the book went on I failed to find myself gripped by it at all. The action is fast paced, and it moves along at a good rate, but I personally found the story hard to believe and at times it did feel to lack depth to me. I often read this book in small bursts, as I failed to be pulled into the story as I felt I should have been.

                David himself feels like a character I have met before. Anyone who read books by the likes of Harlan Coben or Simon Kernick can relate to this type of character. A seemingly ordinary guy who is suddenly pulled into a world of terrifying possibilities yet manages to pull himself through, despite dealing with some dark, shady characters. I also failed to feel the heartbreak that should be evident in this book, and indeed Barclay does try, but I just couldn't become close to any of the main characters, never mind David Harwood who is the eyes of the majority of the story.

                I believe the book reveals some things far too early on, that probably could have been left till later to help build up the tension, but to keep this book moving in its fast paced manner a lot of key details are revealed early on. Indeed there were some elements of surprise in the book, and sections of it I were surprised at and didn't expect, but these weren't enough to get me hooked on the action, nor did I feel particularly bothered about what happened next, I simply wanted to get to the end.

                The ending had everything all come together for what should be an explosive ending, but I couldn't help but feel this was simply a quick way to tie all the ends together. In fact in some parts at the end, I just couldn't understand why David acted in the way he did, and again I had trouble believing these aspects of the storyline. It was all tied up nicely in the end, but after reading it all, I felt more relieved that it was over.

                Despite having enjoyed a previous book by Linwood Barclay, I personally didn't find this one all that exciting. I can see it appealing to many, but for me I have read much better in this genre and it doesn't put this book in the top reads for me.
                I was given this book through the Amazon Vine programme and it currently available in hardback for £9.49 from Amazon, with the paperback version due out in June 2011.

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                  16.08.2010 22:11
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                  My mum and I have really gotten into Linwood Barclay's books lately, and considering crime fiction isn't something I pick up often, Barclay's books have certainly had me hooked. By far the best so far has been "No Time for Goodbye" which had me gripped until the very end.

                  This latest offering focuses on David Harwood, a local newspaper reporter who finds himself in the unusual situation of being the prime suspect in the disappearance of his wife, Jan. Jan goes missing during a family day out, when they take their four year old son Ethan to a local theme park. First, Ethan goes missing and when David eventually finds his abandoned stroller (Ethan having slept through the whole ordeal) he then finds that Jan has also disappeared completely. David finds himself first extremely concerned and worried but once the police reveal that there is no CCTV footage of his wife ever being there things become more complicated and David finds himself completely baffled by the amount of evidence that is stacking up against him.

                  Told from David's perspective, I found this a little hard to get into at first which was unusual for this author. Having dangled the carrot of the disappearance of Jan right at the beginning of the book, the story then goes back a couple of weeks to describe the events that lead up to that day. Normally, this would be an interesting part of the story, describing the characters and their lives as well as setting the scene and creating the atmosphere for what we know is coming. However, I felt that although a lot of this was still achieved, it was a little too drawn out in places and therefore the pace of the story suffered for it.

                  However, the one thing that Barclay does well is cleverly keeping a lid on what is really going on - at least for a while. Like his previous books, I found that I completely sympathised with David, having no clue (at first) how Jan was missing and how it was possible that there was no evidence that she had ever been in the park in the first place. Like all his novels, and most books in this genre, all becomes apparent very soon, and for the rest, well, I always find that I have a fair inkling of how the other dark secrets pan out.

                  There are lots of little avenues that this book takes you down, and I found it a pleasurable book to read overall. I enjoyed reading about David, the first person perspective helped build up a sympathetic picture of David as well as making him an incredibly likeable lead character who is strong but has flaws all the same.

                  It is difficult to say much else about the story without spoiling it overall, but needless to say Jan has her part to play in it. She was a very interesting character herself and I enjoyed reading her part of the story. I liked the way Barclay hadn't made things so black and white with his characters and one minute I liked them and the next despised them as a result.

                  Do not expect a story that makes a lot of sense - it is most certainly based in an alternative reality (or at least, Hollywood) where crazy and far-fetched things happen all the time, but that's the beauty of escapist reading. I enjoyed it from beginning to end as I knew completely what to expect.

                  Now here comes the but. (And it is a BIG BUT). I finished the book feeling a little underwhelmed. Yes, I enjoyed it but there seemed to be something missing from this story that usually makes this particular author's books outstanding. It may have been because the reader is 'in' on the story almost from the outset and although Linwood Barclay attempts to have a few more secrets up his sleeve for the rest of the book, none of them make quite enough impact to be truly exciting.

                  Barclay himself states that this latest offering is his best thriller to date, but sadly I have to disagree. That is not to say that I wouldn't recommend it because I would, I still enjoyed it and if it was my first book by him I would be fairly impressed enough to read more books by him. However, having read a few of his others, I felt this doesn't quite come up to scratch. I've yet to read "Fear the Worst" and this also has had some mixed reviews, but this book has by no means put me off him at all and you will no doubt see me reviewing him again in the future!

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