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The Accident falls within the crime thriller genre and is based in America, having been a more recent release (2011 I believe) from the popular author, Linwood Barclay.
To open, we’re initially given a glimpse in to a back alley deal of someone selling knock-off designer handbags, leaving 3 dead. This gives us a taste of things to come before we’re quickly thrown in to the main storyline. Enter Glen Garber, a man facing some financial difficulties in his construction business. Since taking over the firm from his father, Garber has maintained a close knit team that are like family to him. But the challenging industry isn’t all Glen has had to face. He finds his wife’s car at the scene of a drink-driving accident; Sheila died on impact, as did those she crashed in to. But she wasn’t a drinker, so both Glen and the 8 year-old daughter are devastated yet angry and confused.
That’s not the only strange thing to happen. When Kelly sleeps over at the neighbour’s house with their daughter, she overhears a conversation that she obviously shouldn’t have. But what could it mean? As tensions mount between the neighbours and Garber after some altercation over the matter, things go from bad to worse at the construction company and for Glen. Sometimes things just aren’t all they seem…People get in to trouble, people die, and mystery increases. There’s something bigger at play that Glen can’t quite figure out so he takes things in to his own hands to investigate.
The book then basically takes us across a few tangents whilst the mysteries are investigating, uncovering various characters and relationships. It was made more interesting by firstly giving us a glimpse in to the world of knock off handbags, only to throw us in to something completely different, leaving us wondering where that kind of knowledge could later come in to play.
I enjoyed the way Barclay mixes up the premise so as not to focus it solely on one thing. It keeps us on our toes and increases the mystery as we pieces bits together bit by bit, ever quite knowing what’s what.
As for the characters, I thought most were quite well developed. At times I felt they could have felt a bit more ‘real’ or have more depth to them, however for the most part they were easy enough to envision. There was a degree of empathy there but I didn’t find myself warm to the characters as much as I have with some other authors.
Barclay does do suspense reasonably well. She builds up a sense of mystery because there are a lot of characters and unanswered questions thrown in to the mix. From the outset, you can’t quite figure out what’s going on, however I wasn’t overly shocked at the outcome. Overall, this is a reasonable novel with some good suspense and mystery, but it lacked some ‘spark’ in terms of a gripping premise or warmth of characters.
Linwood Barclay seems to have taken the literary speed read world by storm. Not sure what the male version of chick lit is, but he and James Patterson have it well covered at the moment. Able to read this at a super fast pace and comfortably hold on to even the deepest of plot elements, names and events, The Accident is a thriller that requires you not only to suspend belief but to devise a whole new meaning to the term 'go with the flow'.
We start off with a prologue, clearly a la James Bond, a tangent from the body of the tale that even Ian Fleming would be proud of. Two ladies looking for knock off handbags stumble into a back street building and get shot. That's it.
We then switch to a construction worker whose wife has died in horrific circumstances. Glen Garber's wife Sheila was driving drunk on the wrong side of the road and took out half of a family with her actions. Everyone is shocked as it really wasn't like her. None more than Glen, who finds himself single father to 8 year old Kelly and blamed by his dragon-like mother in law Fiona and her toyboy husband Marcus. His construction business is looking shaky following one of his houses burning down, his 2nd in command has financial worries and is trying to get advances all the time, and things just get even worse when you add a cold blooded killer, more deaths and a huge dollop of scepticism into the whole sorry affair. As glen begins to doubt what really happened to his wife, he finds himself at the centre of something much bigger than a bunch of fake purses.
Yes that's right. Barclay gives us a crime thriller full of murders based solely around fake handbags. Or at least that's the conclusion we're led to draw from the first bunch of chapters. As the novel progresses, you inevitably get the feeling that he's holding something back for the end, that there has to be more of a twists than the obvious. I'll give him his credit, he does manage a considerable amount of suspense and tension at times, but moreso than James Patterson there is such a shallow nature to the events that you really could reduce this to an even 100 pages on abridging if you wanted to without losing a single thing.
The characters are always brought into Barclay's tales very well. He's an author who makes great use of the police for both authority and corruption, and while there's no real striking components of either here to start with, the lingering doubts are planted at a very early stage and it never goes away. he keeps you thinking by throwing red herrings all the time, and this is often enough to maintain interest with such a tale, and this is no exception.
But it's ridiculous. The most tenuous links are developed without any sufficient explanation. Conclusions are jumped to, preposterous motives and chance encounters form some of the underpinning plot elements, the inevitable twists at the end are perhaps predictable but never in the fashion that you'd have thought having read the novel; and when they are delivered the action involving them is both short and sweet, with more belief around lucky timing needing to be suspended, nay discarded.
I found it all a bit too much. Too be effective there has to be a remote possibility that any of this would happen. One thing that confused me more than anything else was that with previous novels Barclay was able to bring out some empathy with the reader. Using the first person narrative and letting that narrator be a prime suspect at least for part of the story brings this out, but in The Accident this is never discussed, and as I said earlier the police involvement is constant but so understated at times that you feel as if the majority of these people could do what they want when they want and only a chance encounter or a bit of fate could intervene.
It's ultimately disappointing, if I'm honest. It was much easier to read than a lot of books, but I still need a whole lot more substance to it. Guaranteed the main elements of this plot and also the characters will have vanished from my mind in a month's time, and be replaced by something of a different class. I've got the latest John Connolly, Ian Rankin and Neil Gaiman ready next. I'm confident I'll breeze through these but they'll be of a different calibre. They'll be keepers, while this is an ideal holiday zoom through throwaway novel. Worth a read if you have it in your hand, but I wouldn't rush out an buy it.
After reading Linwood Barclays first novel 'No Time For Goodbye' and immediately wanting more, I have always anticipated his next book and often have them on pre-order before they are released. 'The Accident' was no different and I couldn't wait to get stuck into it when it landed on my doorstep with the satisfying thud that only a brand new hardback can give.
The inside sleave didn't give much away about the book except setting the scene of a fairly quiet and ordinary place in Connecticut where Glen Garber, a self employed builder, looks after his wife and daughter but after hitting a spot of financial difficulty his wife is eager to help earn extra money perhaps outside of the law. When I started to read the book I anticipitated that I knew where the book was going in quite a general way, but within the first couple of chapters something quite dramatic happened which I wasn't expecting and from then on I knew the book had grabbed hold of me and wouldn't let go of me until I had finished it!
The book is hard to put down and has such a pace to it that you want more and more all the time. I constantly told myself I would only read one more chapter and would then put it down, only to then read another 10 chapters. There are quite a few characters within the book and I had to skip back several times to jog my memory as to who was who. This was quite frustrating at times when I didn't want to break off from the book, but the number of characters was essential to the story.
Although the book follows Glen Garber it does deviate at times to other characters which have been skirting around the story, but this is quite important to the story and allows you to second guess (wrongly I may add!) what may happen to Glen. Glen acts as a detective within the book, trying to get to the bottom of what appears to be a secret network of people all trying to get rich from a scheme that is apparantly leaving a number of them dead through 'accidental circumstances'. Glen must find out whats going on for the sake of his own sanity but also for fear of being set up for something which he had no involvement in. It will leave you second guessing the ending the whole way through!
Linwood Barclay has written 5 stand alone novels in recent years after his bestselling first novel became the number one selling book in 2008 in the UK. I've been hooked ever since and although this book was certainly very very good, it was my least favourite so far. This by no means means I wouldn't recommend the book/ read it again myself - I would - it just wasn't as good as his other fantastic stand alones. If you haven't read one of his books before I would suggest No Time For Goodbye is a good one to get you started.
It is perhap Barclays background as a columnist for The Toronto Star that makes his books seem so authentic. The characters and the plots are never ordinary yet somehow seem so authentic and everyday that you 100% believe everything he is writing and submerge yourself in the book whole heartedly.