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Never Look Away - Linwood Barclay
Member Name: jeffjen
Never Look Away - Linwood Barclay
Date: 05/12/10, updated on 05/12/10 (102 review reads)
Advantages: Good writing and characters. An interesting plot.
Disadvantages: Too much is revealed too soon.
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.
Summary: Worth a read, but would have been better if revelations came later in the story.