I've read something by Linwood Barclay before and enjoyed it, so this caught my eye in the library. The cover also informs us that it's the 'Number one bestseller', which I'm always a sucker for anyway. It also tells us that this is the author of Richard & Judy Summer Read winner for 'No Time for Goodbye', so I was expecting this to be a good read and I wasn't disappointed.
Too Close To Home seems to fall into the crime thriller genre, even if at times there's more detail on the drama side of things than killings and case-solving. The book opens with one side of events and then shifts to put Jim Cutter in the role of protagonist. This basically tells us who isn't responsible for a murder, but no clues as to who is.
The basic premise is that the Langley family, consisting of husband, wife and son, Adam, get brutally murdered in their home. Their neighbours are the Cutters, consisting of Jim and Eileen, and their son, Derek. They're obviously shocked and scared by this turn of events because they live next door, they were close with the Langley's and the killer or killers are still on the loose.
We're left with no idea as to who or why the family were killed, but bit by bit new information is gleaned. We learn of an old computer acquired by the two boys, Adam and Derek, on which they found a novel. The computer belonged to a boy before he killed himself years ago, and yet somehow, the same book seems to have been published by Conrad Chase not too long after. Chase is known to the Cutter family, and the tensions are clear to see. Obviously there's history between them, and the curiosity of what happened to this book plays on Jim's mind.
Taking the investigation into his own hands, Jim attempts to investigate. With police getting no closer to solving the puzzle, we see how Jim moves through ideas in his head, tries to figure out what's going on whilst keeping his family safe. We also see how misunderstandings and complications, especially when the truth is hidden and distorted, can lead to huge implications. This aspect I found to be quite emotional and dramatic, but I won't say what it was, rather I'm just pointing out that the book had the ability to draw out emotions in the reader.
I won't say anymore on the plot but I will say that it's fairly complex and quite surprising. I couldn't have guessed the twists and turns, and I liked that because it was quirky and unique, it kept me guessing and wanting to read more. I also liked the web of characters that was developed, each of which I was able to picture and get a grasp of, making the whole novel seem more realistic.
The style of writing was intelligent and coherent, but Barclay also added in some quick comedy in parts to bring to life the protagonist and keep things lively. I did, however, find that some parts towards the beginning were a little slow as Barclay re-capped everything that had happened. None the less, the pace picks up and her re-capping meant that I didn't find myself getting lost or confused by the increasing amount of characters and events.
Overall, I found this to be a book I kept wanting to pick back up, I wanted to know what would happen and I enjoyed being absorbed in it. I would recommend it, and it doesn't matter if you've read a Barclay novel before or not because it's a stand-alone book.
466 pages over 44 chapters
Determined to get me to like Linwood Barclay my mother has now given me three of his books to read and I disliked him a little more after finishing each book. That is not to say his books are terrible, they're actually quite readable. But only if you want a throwaway book that won't leave you thinking too much after it.
The Cutter family is thrown into the deep end of a nightmare when their next door neighbours are brutally murdered. Things get even more terrifying when they discover that they were the intended victims and the killers went to the wrong house. Initially they can't believe it, but as each of them think back on their lives they all discover secrets that they have kept hidden might just mean someone's out to get them.
=The Good Points=
The plot is interesting. I managed to read it from beginning to end and it was certainly better plot wise than one of his other books 'Fear the Worst'.
=The Bad Points=
This part is going to be significantly longer :P
Firstly the plot, while interesting, is in a word mental. It's pretty far fetched in a number of places and the murder of the neighbours seems to fade into the background as the book continues. The twists are certainly suprising but mostly because they're so fantastic some of them border on absurd.
My major issue with the plot comes from a line in the blerb, "What's more frightening than your next door neighbours being murdered? Finding out the killers went to the wrong house..."
From this you'd assume, or at least I assumed that after the murder of their neighbours the Cutters would discover that actually they were the intended victims. But this doesn't actually happen. Two or three times someone makes an observation that their post boxes were easily confused, but at no point do they seem to actually take the notion that they were meant to die seriously. This fact is revealed to them at the end by the killer in a way that makes it seem like we're supposed to be taken aback by it. Except it's written on the blerb in bold red letters, so it's hardly the most startling twist of the book.
Another dissapointing point for me was the characters. The characters and their development are pretty two dimensional. The borderline working/middle class family are the good guys because they're honest and hard working. The richer characters are the bad guys because their money makes them corrupt. Not a bad formula when creating your characters but unfortunately this is applied to ALL of the characters in the book.
The father, Jim Cutter could also have been the guy from 'No Time for Goodbye' or 'Fear the Worst' and the same applies to his wife, Ellen. Although the characters in his books are in different situations, to me they read like the same person, they seem to react to plot twists in the same ways across the board. I also don't understand why Barclay needs to use to much profanity in his dialogue. I'm fine with swearing, but a father telling his son he'd beat the f******g s**t out of him in a not too emotional conversation seems a little odd. All of the characters swear at each other, but as I said in my review of 'No Time for Goodbye' people don't actually talk like that. Swearing is usually used to punctuate emotion not as part of every regular conversation.
I won't be reading any more of Barclay's books. I don't think I need to. The characters are all the same, the dialogue is pretty wooden and full of cussing for what I assume is effect and the twists seem to get more and more bizarre the more books I read of him. If you just want a good story then I would recommend this to you, as the plot doesn't get so surreal it's not enjoyable. If you want something more than a time killer then it's probably not for you.
The Cutter family's neighbours (Albert, Donna and Adam Langley) are gunned down in their own home, with apparently little in the way of a motive. Teenager Derek Cutter is immediately the main suspect, as he was hiding in the Langley home at the time of the murders. From this point onwards, the Cutter family's life is thrown into turmoil, with secrets, lies and betrayal being dug up from the past. But how do they all fit together to reveal the truth? And is Derek Cutter really guilty?
On reading the blurb of this book I was quite excited - I had never read any of Linwood Barclay's books before, and the premise sounded thrilling. The Cutters discover that whoever murdered their neighbours went to the wrong house, that they were actually the intended victims. Don't worry, this isn't a spoiler, as if you've read the blurb on the back of the book you'll know that already! What could be worse than finding out your neighbours have been shot, but that it should have been you in their shoes? Eagerly, I opened the book and started reading...
Apart from the prologue, the whole story is written in the first person, from the point of view of Jim Cutter, father to Derek and husband to Eileen. Jim runs his own lawn cutting and garden maintenance business, which he was forced to take on after he lost his job as the town Mayor's driver. Jim is a no-nonsense kind of guy, who doesn't make idle chat for the sake of it, and is often curt and to the point.
I felt that often he was a little too brief to be normal, but I suppose this can be understood when you realise how much him and his family were going through. Nevertheless, he is a very likeable character; perhaps the fact that it is written in the first person means that we can feel his anger, sympathise with his sadness and understand his shock, almost in a cathartic manner.
Jim's wife Eileen is a much deeper character than she first appears. She seems like she should be the quiet, caring, doting wife and mother - I'm not saying she's not - but sometimes she comes across as a much more complicated person than I expect her to be. Perhaps it's just me being closed-minded, as Barclay may have purposely portrayed her as a sort of postmodern woman...but when you consider the rest of the book (which I will come to later) she doesn't really seem to fit. As well as that, her revelation - more than that I won't give away for fear of ruining the story - is a bit silly for me. It is feasible that it could happen in real life, but for some reason just felt a little unbelievable.
The Cutter family, for the most part, seemed like your average family... Yet they didn't seem to be overly bothered about the fact that a family was murdered in the house next door. If it was me, I'd barely be able to go into my own house, let alone keep walking and driving past the house where the murder took place. However, the Cutters seemed to ignore this fact and focus on other aspects of the plot. I think I was just expecting more tension or fear from them as a family.
With regards to the rest of the characters, there aren't actually that many to get your head around. I think this is great, as there's nothing worse than having hundreds of characters and losing track of who's who. Most of the rest of the characters are balanced and well-developed, even those we don't see much of. The only exception is Conrad Chase (Eileen Cutter's boss) and his wife Illeana. They both seemed too gregarious and self-important for the town in which they live, and it's extraordinary that in this prejudiced society of ours that a couple such as Conrad and Illeana would voluntarily befriend grass-cutting Jim. It actually seemed like they would be characters more suited to a film than a book...did Barclay have big ideas for this novel...?
Now, I'm going to have to be careful about how I word my views on the plot, as I don't want to give too much away. Apologies to anyone if I accidentally and unknowingly say something which reveals the truth!
I was actually a bit disappointed by the plot. By the time I'd reached the end of the book I was left baffled - a fairly large portion of the book and its focus ended up being totally unrelated to the outcome of the story. Yes, it may have helped to develop the characters and give them some depth, and you may even be able to argue it away as being a sub-plot...but it is such a large sub-plot that I thought it was the actual plot. By the end, I felt like I'd wasted a lot of time reading about something which was totally irrelevant. I mean, I've heard of red herrings and all, but this is taking red herrings to the next level!
Furthermore, the way the plot is constructed seems a bit simple. It actually reminded me a lot of a story I wrote for my English homework when I was in Year 8: one thing happens, which the characters focus on and investigate, then another thing happens, which the characters then focus on and investigate, then a third thing happens, which the characters go and focus on and investigate...and so on. What I'm trying to say is that everything happens one thing at a time. There are never lots of things going on at once, and I felt that the story lacked some depth. I suppose that this structure makes it a quick and easy read, but I personally prefer books which have more layers to them and which do not lay everything plainly out in front of me.
Having said that, when it became clear what was actually happening regarding the murders, it was something that I hadn't thought of at all. With crime books I like to be kept guessing as to what will happen next, and I hadn't guessed the truth at all. I wasn't surprised by it, but it hadn't occurred to me either. As I neared the end of the book, the tension mounted effectively and I felt myself holding my breath as I waited to see what would happen next. The ending is certainly gripping and thrilling...I only wish it could have been like that the whole way through.
The language used in the book is all very easy to understand. Any legal matters, especially regarding Derek Cutter, are glossed over so as to avoid drowning the reader in too much legal waffle. As I mentioned earlier, this is a quick read - I think it took me roughly ten hours in total to read, although this was with many interruptions such as conversations and texting! The chapters are all fairly short - not as short as in James Patterson books, but short enough that you can stop reading at frequent intervals.
Overall, would I recommend this book? ...I would and I wouldn't. I would because it is a quick read, which does become more gripping and thrilling as it goes along. However, I wouldn't recommend the book due to the facts that the structure is basic and a large portion of the plot was irrelevant to the outcome. It just ended up being totally different from the book I was expecting. After I'd finished it, I re-read the blurb again and actually couldn't figure out what part of the story the blurb was referring to. I even commented to my mum that it seemed like the blurb was printed on the back of the wrong book! The book wasn't what I was expecting, and it wasn't the best written or constructed book I've ever read, but it was a good, tense, quick read.
My paperback copy has 466 pages and has a RRP of £7.99. It can currently be bought on Amazon for £5 (from other sellers the new price starts at £1.78 and used starts at 1p). I think the RRP is a bit steep, but if you can get it a bit cheaper then you'll be getting a fair deal.
This is Linwood Barclay's second book, the first being his hugely popular best seller- No Time for Goodbye, but it is a completely standalone publication.
This book is of the crime genre, but is not your typical gorey, who dunnit. Barclay cleverly introduces just enough information to make you think, and keep you enthralled, and cleverly weaves several story lines together.
Told from the point of view of the father, Mr Cutter, we get a sense first hand of what this tragedy has done to the family, and the town they live in.
Barclay's writing is completely believable, and utterly compelling. Once you start reading this book you wont want to put it down.
Style wise it is very similar to his first novel, but goes further with the unexpected revelations.
Essentially the book is about a family living next to a house where there has just been a triple murder, and their discovery that the murderer was actually aiming for their house. Alongside this they have to deal with their son being arrested on suspicion of murder, a mysterious computer and a wealth of other secrets, which until now had remained hidden.
I would reccomend this book to anyone, even if you're not a big reader...you may just be surprised.
Too Close To Home is a book written by Lynwood Barclay, following the huge success that was No Time For Goodbye. The story is told from the perspective of Jim Cutter, whose neighbours the Langleys are killed for apparently no reason. His son Derek, is later found out to have been hiding in the house when the Langleys are killed and therefore he is the prime suspect for the murders. So Jim sets off to try and find the real killers, and soon finds out the killers may have targeted the wrong house.........
After reading Linwood Barclay's previous novel, "No Time For Goodbye" and enjoying it immensely, I was looking forward to another crime/thriller from him. However the two books are a bit too similar in both plot and characters so it feels like maybe this book was a bit rushed out after the success of No Time For Goodbye. The style of writing is very similar in that it is simple and doesn't require a lot of thinking, which works well as I certainly found it hard to put down. It stays interesting throughout so there is no fear of being bored and at 352 pages its just the right amount for a book of this.
Despite being hard to put down, the plot is just way too predictable. Every time a new character is introduced the reader pretty much knows what role they will play in the story. Also the narrator, Jim has an annoying habit of telling the reader something important just after meeting a seemingly pointless character, like after meeting the postman he would say- "Oh where did I see him before? Oh yes three years ago I had a fight with him outside a bar and he said he would come and kill me" - not something he actually says in the book but you get the idea. Also the narrator Jim Cutter seems to have a holier-than-thou attitude, going around thinking he is the most decent man alive (quite like the main character in "No Time For Goodbye" actually). All the characters are one-dimensional; they are either bad or good which makes this book so easy to read, but also is a bit insulting to the readers intelligence. And one last gripe; there are way too many question marks? In meaningless places? Know what I mean?
I think Too Close to Home is the perfect book to buy in an airport; its easy to read and you will want to know what happens in the end.
This is another book that I brought in preparation for my jury service. All that waiting around requires something to fill the time and they advised everybody to bring a book. I took their advice and was glad I did so. Too Close Too Home by Linwood Barclay was a book that I had wanted to read for some time now as I had read his previous book No Time For Goodbye and really quite enjoyed it so went ahead and bought it. This costs £4.97 at Amazon presently.
The book revolves round a man Jim Cutter, his wife Eileen and his son Derek and various other characters come into play along the way. Their next door neighbours, the Langleys, are murdered by an unknown assailant and they along with everyone else in the area start to wonder why someone would do such a thing. Of course some people know more than they are letting on about the family and secrets start to come out of the woodwork and the family start to wonder if they, and not their neighbours, were the actual intended target.
My immediate impression with the book was not that great. The reason for this was that it opened with a bit of an almost grubby passage from the perspective of the teenager Derek which was a little off-putting almost but it soon improved in both tone and content.
Some of the characters were a little stereotyped I felt. The Mayor, for one, going around with an 'I'm superior attitude', shady dealings, dodgy staff, off with prostitutes and so on. It just felt a little fake. Similarly the portrayal of one of the ladies in the story who had lost her son who's living alone with her cats and so on. Other than that the characters were okay but there was no-one that I really either took to or disliked.
Though I really enjoyed the book overall and would recommend it for easy reading, I found the ending really unconvincing, like the author got to the end and thought 'oh yeah I've got to allocate the murder to someone, who shall I pick?'. The reasoning behind the murderer's actions were just too far-fetched and it didn't play out realistically in my eyes.
Following the success of No Time For Goodbye, Linwood Barclay continued themes in this enjoyable thriller, Too Close To Home. I didn't find it as appealing a read as his previous novel, but this was maybe due to the similar style, whereas reading No Time For Goodbye presented me with a new style as well as a thrilling read.
Too Close To Home takes a very regular small town, regular families and regular everything, really, and flips everything upside down with a good old murder mystery. When the Cutters' neighbours, the Langleys, are murdered for no immediately obvious reason, they are immediately put on edge. When it turns out that the Cutters' son, Derek, was in the house at the time of the killings, it starts a rollercoaster of revelations about the family and those they know. It seems that everyone has at least one skeleton in the closet. Some have many........
What Barclay does well is keep the pace of the book at a very even level, while throwing something new at us every chapter. You get the feeling that you know the families already, as he portrays them as very regular people. Jim Cutter gives the narrative of the story, and telling it from his perspective works very well, especially when Derek is taken in by the police due to his involvement. The emotions this evokes from other characters, as well as reactions from people around the Cutters, are very dramatic, yet given to us as if they were run of the mill.
It's the relaxed and smooth pace of the book that wins me over, here. There's nothing special about it, just a very well designed plot told in a no nonsense fashion. There are no long winded or overly descriptive passages, as all of the explanations and back stories told are done in an appealing way, using dialogue wherever possible as if we were watching the whole thing unfold. It's the sort of story that is a screenplay writer's dream: nothing over complicated to have to worry about, it's virtually all done ready for TV. You can really visualise how it would work.
The other thing that's quite easy to visualise is the characters. Barclay gives a brief description of nearly every character, and manages to not make it repetitive. This helps to get a mental image of the main players and lets your imagination take hold while you're reading. This, coupled with the easy reading style Barclay has, makes the book hard to put down.
There are a few plot twists along the way, too, and while I was slightly disappointed with the outcome of No Time For Goodbye, this was a bit better. Characters pop up all the way through, coming in and out of the story, and you're never sure whether the next person mentioned is going to become a vital part or not. It certainly kept me on my toes and kept me guessing throughout as to the identity of whoever was behind the murders. The end of the book has a bit of a pick up in pace, which I felt rounded it off as a highly enjoyable read.
It's not overly long, coming at just over 450 pages long. The chapters come in regular breaks, allowing for regular stopping spots should you need them. I find it hard when books have 20 or 30 pages per chapter and I feel I need to get to the end, not wishing to stop reading right in the middle of a scene. Too Close To Home's chapters are just the right length.
Too Close To Home didn't hold quite the same magic for me as No Time For Goodbye did, but it's still a very good book, and one I highly recommend reading. Linwood Barclay's third stand alone novel, Fear The Worst, is about to hit our shelves in paperback, and Never Look Away is due out in hardback in the UK this autumn. I have become a solid fan of his after reading these two books, and will be eager to read more of his work. Recommended.
Last year, the first book I read was Linwood Barclay's, "No Time for Goodbye", it was a gripping read, full of twists and turns. He became an instant favourite, and his talent for creating an excellent book was clear. In turn, I leant the book to my younger brother, and best friend both of whom also thought it was amazing. I was keen to get my hands on more of his books. From looking at his Waterstones listings, I saw that his second UK release was to be "Too Close To Home" which was released in July this year. When going to Newquay, W H Smiths had it included on their "buy two get one half price" offer, so Jam and I bought it, and another book "The Last Pope" for our reads on the train. He read it first, and was extremely pleased with it. I didn't get a chance to get it from him before I went to university.
In my desperation to get hold of a copy, I bought one from eBay, just before I got back home for Christmas. At the same time, I got back the copy Jam had, so I now have two.
I read a couple of chapters one day, and then couldn't resist shooting through it, so completed it the following day.
The book opens with a Prologue, setting the scene for the night, with the Langley family preparing to go on Holiday. Derek, their neighbour, and Adam Langley's best friend is waiting for them to depart, with a plan to stay behind, hidden, so that while they are away, he can use the house to spend more time with his girlfriend, Penny.
Once the Langley's have left, Derek takes a walk around the house, and rings Penny to come over. But, before she can, the Langley's arrive back home, and Derek has no choice but to shoot downstairs into the cellar and hide, waiting until they go to bed to sneak out. However, the Langley's have a visitor, who turns a gun upon the family, killing all three of them.
The book then slips into the mind of Jim Cutter, Derek's father, by whom the story is told...
"What is more frightening than your next-door neighbours being murdered? Finding out the killers went to the wrong house..."
I had high hopes for the book. I expected twist turns, unexpected events, suspense and all that I had found in No Time for Goodbye. While it did manage to deliver them all, I did feel slightly let down in comparison. But I still think it is a great read.
The story is original, and very entertaining. I quite like stories being told in the first person, as it seems to add some real personal touch to the story, and Jim Cutter was a great person to tell the tale. The writer did really well in building believable characters, and completely bringing them to life through flashbacks to the past and small details here and there. This is what makes a good book.
Each of the three Cutter's has a secret. Something that the other two do not know about, and they have no intentions of sharing. Secrets that could destroy the lives of others if they became public. These secrets are what drives the book, as you gradually discover what they each knew. The whole plot is held together so firmly, and is brilliantly crafted. It is a top read from start to the nail biting end.
What I did find problematic though, was some clear typing errors, in both copies of the book I have. I cannot remember them now, but there were around 5 in total, throughout the book. They were quite clear mistakes too, and I would have thought a proof-reader should have picked up on them - especially if I can. It is obvious what it should be though, so does not affect the pleasure of reading.
One of the things I really enjoy about reading, is new words. Expanding my vocabulary. I always have enjoyed discovering new words to use, from my primary school times writing stories and scouring thesauruses for words like "Gargantuan" and "Antediluvian".
This book through up one word I didn't know, and it bugged me for days before I got around to looking it up. The word, was "Cuckold", which apparently means a married man with an adulterous wife, and dates back to 1250.
You could if you want, buy a copy for the sum of £3.49 from Amazon.
Trust me, you want a copy.
You may have missed this book if you have been looking at best sellers lists - I know I overlooked it a c couple of times purely because the cover is so very similar to that of Linwood Barclays previous book "No Time For Goodbyes." However, my mum gave me this copy and only after reading the back did I realise it was something different entirely!
This story is about a family who live next door (or rather, up the road a bit!) to a mother, father and son that get murdered one night. The Cutter family are definitely spooked by the events that unfolded when the family next door are gunned down for no apparent reason; 17 year old Derek Cutter even more so as he was hiding out in the house the night of the murder and witnesses the killings although never saw the face of the killer.
In his attempt to cover up his presence In his neighbours house, he ends up getting charged for the three murders when he is finally discovered as being there.
Now that his son is in custody for the murder and knowing that his son is not capable of committing such a crime, Jim is determined to clear Derek's name and find out what happened at his neighbours that night. During his investigations, Jim makes several disturbing discoveries that could be motives for the murders of his neighbours but most worryingly of all, it becomes obvious that actually the killer may have just made a mistake....and that it was the Cutters themselves who were meant as the targets...
I absolutely adored "No Time For Goodbyes", although the plot towards the end was slightly predictable, I enjoyed getting there, it was well written with good characters and quite often made my hair stand on end. For this reason, I was looking forward to getting into this book as it held a similar promise.
Unfortunately, it did not live up to the previous books excitement at all. I found myself getting more and more disappointed as the story went along and at several points I was ready to give up - only my stubbornness led me to finish the book (Ok, and a teeny part of me just wanted to find out what happened, but honestly, I couldn't really of cared less!) A promising start to the book - Derek hiding out in the neighbours home and hearing his best friend and his parents being shot...followed by the day after.
After that, there appeared to be several chapters of nothingness. It felt like I was reading someone's dull diary about their normal mundane week. I always appreciate the need for realism, but in a book such as this, I need it to get me gripped from the start and keep me gripped - this sadly had me losing interest quicker by the minute.
Narrated by Jim Cutter, it felt like the first half of the book really didn't build any type of suspense and didn't actually move the story forward at all. However, Barclay has a knack of developing an sympathetic and likeable main character and once again, Jim was one that was easy to relate to. A man with morals and integrity and one that appears to be a trustworthy source for the story. As well as developing Jim into a likeable character, there are other very colourful characters that are introduced into the main story. All of these characters and their back stories have a bearing on the main plot (in their way) but still, I felt that it didn't move along quick enough for me to stand up and take notice of them at all.
To me, and to most of the many intelligent people who has and who will read this, the killer and the reasons behind the killing dawn quickly by half way through the book. This is just one of those unbelievably predictable books where all I was really reading for was to see how it all came out.
My other criticism of the book really goes back to my very first line in this review. Its not only the cover that gave me a sense of déjà vu, but also the main character. So far, I have said that Linwood Barclay the author creates likeable main characters, but it seems that he has used the same formula on his last two books Jim Cutter from this book seems to be created in a very similar mould to Terry the main character In "No Time For Goodbye". In fact, I have just gone back to remind myself about what I wrote about Terry In my review and my exact words were "I found that Terry as a narrator was a reliable one;" which is pretty much what I have just said about Jim in this!
On the whole, this was pretty disappointing. Unlike his last book, this one didn't provide any element of surprise, I remember reading the last book and for the majority feeling a bit baffled as to what the outcome might be, with this, its hard to guess it wrong. This really didn't live up to expectations. If you go to buy "No Time For Goodbye", check the covers carefully and make sure you don't pick this one up instead!!
When I first saw Too Close to Home I thought I'd already read it as the cover is so similar to Barclay's bestselling book No Time for Goodbye, the version I have is blue like the first one and is the same design. I'd enjoyed that one so bought this one. On the back of the book it asks "What's more frightening than your next door neighbours being murdered? Finding out the killers went to the wrong house ....."
The story opens with 17 year old high school senior (we're in America) Derek hiding out in his friend's house just as him and his family are off on holiday so he can have access to the place while they are away so he can have somewhere to be alone with his girlfriend. Turns out they come back unexpectedly so he goes back into hiding only to hear someone shoot and kill his friend and his parents.
Derek goes back home and for some inexplicable reason keeps his mouth shut even when the police start investigating. The sorry tale comes out soon enough and of course Derek becomes the no.1 suspect.
After the prologue the story unfolds from the view of Derek's father, Jim Cutter, an extremely likeable character who works as a lawn maintenance man after quitting his job as the Mayor's driver because of losing his temper over the Mayor's louche lifestyle. As the story unfolds it becomes clear that Jim's wife knows more about events than she is letting on and I found her quite unsympathetic; however Jim reacts to the situation and what he discovers in an understandable way and in this respect I found the book to be a much more believable and engrossing read than No Time for Goodbye.
I did twig about 20 pages from the end what was going on but up until then I hadn't a clue and despite knowing how it was going to pan out I still enjoyed the ending and will definitely look out for future books from this author.
I started reading this book after thoroughly enjoying No Time For Goodbye by Linwood Barcalay a few weeks ago. Too Close To Home was well worth the read but just wasnt as good as the first. It's very easy to read, with not too many characters that you can't keep up, but the only downfall is you kind of guess whats going to happen next before it actually happens!
His first book was a massive bestseller across the world and was one of Richard and Judy's book club summer reads.
The story follows the Cutter family who live down an old lane, with houses few and far between. The book starts by introducing the 3 members of the family, Jim, Ellen and their teenage son Derek. After a few chapters it introduces the next door neighbours and basically Derek who is hiding in their house (I'll let you read why!) hears the Langleys being executed in their own home. The Cutters are shocked, however Jim is of the mindset that it was a totally random attack and the odds of the same fate becoming of them are slim to none, however Ellen is scared and worried for their safety. Derek meanwhile tells no-one that he was in the house, until the police start asking questions.
You kind of half know what to expect from the book as the front cover gives it away with the tagline "What's more frightening than your neighbours being murdered? Finding the killers went to the wrong house... ". So you always feel like your one step ahead of the book because of the tag!
There are a few stories which are happening along side the main story, one of which being Ellens employer college president Conrad, who wrote a best selling novel. The basics of this story are questioning his entegrity and you realise they are not just telling you this for the sake of it, it's linked somehow. There is also the story of Jim's ex-employer Mayor Finley, who Jim happened to punch in the nose and tell him to stuff his job, for reasons which some become apparant. Again, you think, what's this got to do with anything!?
Secrets start to slowly unveil themselves, and the Cutter's safety is soon in danger. I don't want to give anything else away for fear of spoiling the plot, but it has various things going on, that are interesting to read and leaves you playing a guessing game with the author.
A good read, but I would strongly recommend reading No Time For Goodbye first as that is a much better read with an ending that you just wouldn't guess.
Hardback version available from Amazon for £8.99.
Published 5 February 2009.
Too Close to Home is a story which begins on the basis that you can be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Derek a 16 year old decides to use his friend's (and neighbours) house while he is away as a place to meet his girlfriend. His girlfriend is grounded and he is just about to leave when his friends family arrive back early and he has to hide in the basement. He plans to sneak out as soon as possible, but within minutes he hears gunshots and when he is brave enough to sneak out from his hiding place, finds that his friend and his parents have been shot dead.
From this moment on he and his own parents are embroiled in this crime which, due to the close proximity and neighbourly ties, leave them frightened and confused as to whether they will be next. As Derek's father tries to unravel the truth, they all end up being dragged further in, and secrets from the past re-surface.
Linwood Barclay has a very easy style of writing. The story is clear and his writing style is uncluttered. The story itself moves at a relatively quick pace and I was eager to move on to each chapter. This book is certainly not a complicated indepth type of thriller. It is however an exciting light read, and really good entertainment.
It is out in paperback and I purchased it from Sainsburys in a "2 for £7" offer, which I felt was good value for money.
Linwood Barclay has been writing for years, both as a journalist and an author, but recently his popularity has grown considerably mainly due to his best seller: No Time for Goodbye, which won Richard and Judy's Summer Read Competition. I thoroughly enjoyed reading that book, so I was automatically drawn to his latest novel: Too Close to Home.
Too Close to Home is the story of what seems on the face of it, an everyday American family. The Cutter family consists of a Mother (Ellen), a Father (Jim) and a teenage son (Derek), making a satisfied yet modest living, living in a comfortable home and generally getting on with life. This all falls apart in dramatic style very early on in the book when their neighbours (also Mother, Father and son) are all slaughtered. No spoilers here, it's on the back of the book. Questions soon arise as to whether their killers in fact went to the wrong house. Each member of the Cutter household may have a good reason as to why they may actually be the intended target, but each one is reluctant to share with the other until they absolutely have to.
The story opens with a prologue of Derek Cutter inadvertently witnessing the Langley family's demise, whilst sneakily trying to arrange to use the house for a love den whilst they are on vacation. I assumed that the story was going to be told from his point of view, as by the end of the prologue I was quite attached to him but come Chapter One, Jim Cutter (the Father) takes over the role, completely telling the story from his point of view from the day after the murders. The murder of a whole family next door would probably have a shock horror effect on me, but once Jim hears the news, he seems to take it fairly calmly in his stride, his main concern being his own family, indicating that he is a fairly balanced and calm man. His ex boss comes on the scene in the form of the Mayor, and it is immediately obvious that Jim loathes him, yet the mayor has a grudging respect for Jim. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear why Jim left his employment and set up on his own as a gardener where he is now content being his own boss, employing Derek during the holidays. I think that having Jim as a grass Cutter suggests to the reader that Jim yearns for a simple easy life, after coming through a fair amount of turmoil and frustration in his past.
Secrets and events from the past come out during the process of finding the Langleys killers which the Cutter family would probably have preferred to stay hidden and undiscussed. Barclay drops little hints every now and again which lead you to believe that there is a lot more than meets the eye to certain situations, and sure enough, as events start to unravel everything becomes increasingly clear as to why everyone is behaving the way that they are, and why there are some fairly uncomfortable relationships within the people surrounding the Cutter family. The main one being Jim's relationship with his Ellen's boss. There are also points in this book where I just wanted to scream "just tell him/her and stop beating about the bush" but this of course adds to the suspense, and makes you want to read on.
I liked Jim and I feel that he is a character that a lot of people could relate to. He is a simple man trying to keep his head down but caught in an unfortunate cascade of bad luck whilst trying his best to do good deeds and keep his family safe; unfortunately those around him keep doing stupid things to add to his troubles. I did not much care for Ellen and I found her difficult to relate to and understand; she is quite a complicated character with a lot of hidden issues, and I feel that Jim has taken the fall for a lot of her problems. There are several other characters in the book which are crucial to the story line, all of which add their own depths and generally speaking, bring another problem into the mix for Jim. I was kept guessing what the ending was going to be until it was spelled out for me, and once it was, it all seemed to be over very quickly. Everything is wrapped up nicely, and there are no loose ends where you are left wondering what will happen next, but it was all possibly a little too convenient.
This novel was extremely easy to read, and it is the most enjoyable book that I have read in a long while - you know that feeling when you have to keep reading, but really don't want to finish, and when you do finish, you don't want to start another book in case it isn't as good?! Well, that is how this book made me feel! Also the text size of my paperback copy is perfect, I wouldn't normally mention this, but I have recently put down a book after a couple of pages (a rare occurrence for me) because the text was so small; I lost interest and it made my eyes hurt!
Although I don't want to compare Too Close to Home with No time for Goodbye, it is impossible not to. The two books are very similar in style, and the way both stories have main characters that fall from one disaster to the next whilst trying to sort things out is almost identical, but both books are excellent in their own right. Some of the review lines in the book call Too Close to Home "Chilling" but whilst I didn't feel this, I definitely felt as though it was edge of your seat writing (especially during a scene which involved a hedge trimmer and fingers!) and I constantly wanted to know what was going to happen next. This second book is possibly not quite as punchy as the first, but I enjoyed it immensely and I look forward to the third.
The paper bock version of this book is readily available in all good book shops and supermarkets, but it is currently on offer for £3.86 on Amazon.
It was with a sense of anticipation that I started reading "Too Close to Home" by Linwood Barclay, having thoroughly enjoyed "No Time for Goodbye", his best seller of last year. I often find when I have really enjoyed a book by an author another title can either be just as enjoyable, or a real letdown. Generally there is no middle ground, but with this book as I read it my emotions were mixed.
Continuing the theme of "Book with a snappy title which sums up the plot", this book is about a family, the Cutters, who live next to a the Langley family who are murdered. The story is set in Promise Falls in upstate New York. Derek Cutter, the son of the family, was actually hiding out in the house when the three murders happened as the book starts. Having planned to use his neighbour's house as a loveshack on their departure on holiday, and being good friends with Adam their son, Derek finds himself the only witness to the event. When Jim and Ellen Cutter, Derek's parents, start to ponder on the fact that the two houses share the same mailbox and could be easily confused, and Derek comes under suspicion, the scene is set for a story with plenty of twists, turns and thrills.
I found that on many levels the book did keep me enthralled and threw up a few suprises. I did struggle with the fact that Jim Cutter was essentially not a very likeable character in my mind - he seemed to be rather gung-ho and quick to use his fists, and at one point a watercan, in any confrontation. Wronged by other characters in the book mainly, and showing a softer side with his interaction with his son and also Drew, a man with a past who he takes on to help with his lawnmowing business, he was still hard to like.
I also found that in this book the female characters were a bit pigeonholed into stereotypes - and actually rather a lot of them seemed to be untrustworthy and with morals that left a lot to be desired. Whether this was to add to the story, or some strange latent misogyny I couldn't decide, women got a bit of a poor deal I felt, even the murdered neighbour, Mrs Langley came over as a seedy Mrs Robinson type, and the main character's wife was shown as very flawed. In actual fact many of the characters male or female alike weren't very nice for one reason or another, but the women seemed to get the roughest deal. The mayor, Cutter's former boss, the rather aptly named "Randy", was up to all kind of high jinks but was portrayed as a bit of a loveable rogue. Conrad, a professor, who is Ellen Cutter's boss also enters the story and we soon discover that he too is no saint - the world Barclay has painted here has a very dark underside that is riddled with deception.
As the cop assigned to the case, Barry, finally starts to get to the bottom of the murder cases, with more violence and horrible events being revealed along the way the plot did eventually have me gripped. Despite my issues with the main characters a good story does underly this book, and this kept me reading until the very end, the prose is an easy enough read, and the dialogue is mainly convincing, though a little too peppered with swear words that seemed just to have been put there to make the book seem more gritty for my liking.
Had I not read the other title by Barclay I think I would have been more won over by the book in general, but having been bowled over by his first book I was merely just satisfied by the last page. I did enjoy the book - if that is the right word for a book with this kind of plot, but it wasn't the absolute page turner that the first book was and the ending was a little less unpredictable.
I would still recommend this book if you like a good thriller, but if you haven't read any Linwood Barclay then "Too Close to Home" is a better bet, and if you have read that title you too may be torn twixt disappointment and enjoyment as I was.
Book currently available for £3.86 on Amazon, details below
Paperback: 480 pages
Publisher: Orion (23 Jul 2009)
I came across Linwood Barclay after reading No Time for Goodbye, which was a huge bestseller, mainly because it was a Richard & Judy summe read winner. I really enjoyed No Time for Goodbye, it reminded me of Harlan Coben's books, so when I saw Too Close To Home I decided to give it a go.
= About the Author =
Linwood Barclay was born in the states but moved to Canada when he was 4 years old. He has an Honours B.A. in English from Trent University and worked for the Toronto Star newspaper before he retired in 2008 to concentrate just on books. His first standalone thriller, No Time for Goodbye, was a huge success and quickly became a bestseller in the UK and around the world.
The front cover of this book draws you in from the words: "What's more frightening than your neighbours being murdered? Finding the killers went to the wrong house... " Just reading this made me intrigued!
The story centers around the Cutter family from Jim Cutter's point of view, there is also his wife Ellen and their 17 year old soon, Derek. The book starts off with Derek who witnesses their neighbours, the Langleys, being shot brutally in their home. The Cutter family is shocked, as they feel their safe surburban home is violated and they suddenly feel no one is safe.
However of course, there is more to this than just a random murder and we follow Jim Cutter as he tries to figure out why the Langley's were murdered, becoming more desperate when his son, Derek, is arrested on suspicion of murdering the Langley's. Secrets are unveiled and events from the past which should be buried come to light again and things seem to go from worse to worse for the Cutter family.
We meet various other charactes throughout the book such as the police detective Barry, the town Mayor Finley who Jim Cutter used to wok for, and his driver Lance, who let's say, doesn't get along with Jim at all! Finley was a strange character as I can't imagine anyone like him being allowed to remain a town mayor, and then later in the book, run for congress. There is also the college pesident Conrad, who is Ellen Cutter's boss and his wife Illeana.
= My Opinion =
Whilst I did enjoy parts of this book, I found myself easily guessing who was involved with these murders. With No Time for Goodbye the ending came as a shock to me, but this book lacked that. Linwood dropped in 'subtle' hints about certain people and possible motives, except they weren't all that subtle and I straight away noticed these clues! The ending didn't come as a surprise as it revealed just who was behind the murders, which was disappointing for me as I like to be proved wrong with these kinds of books.
Despite this, I did enjoy eading the book and I like Linwood's style, I can still compare him to Harlan Coben's standalone books, but I feel more time could have been spent on Too Close To Home to make it as good as No Time for Goodbye. If you enjoy these kinds of thrillers, then you will enjoy this one, but don't be surprised if you find yourself guessing the killer and for once, being proved right!
This book is available in hardback from Amazon for £8.99 with the paperback version due out in July 2009.
Publisher: Orion (5 Feb 2009)