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I recently purchased the new release paperback version of Linwood Barclay's novel, Trust Your Eyes. I picked it up whilst on holiday from Sainsbury's for a mere £3.49 - a great price for a new release in my opinion. I had looked at this book in hardback format and was tempted by it on its release but at the time I think I was going through all the Harry Potter's again and the £10+ price didn't seem worth it - but I was very interested in the plot synopsis.
I have read a book called No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay a few years ago, I thought the story was quite unique and it certainly made me want to see what was happening next. This book is even better than NTFG and I did find myself at times just reading massive chunks at a time to see what happened next (normally I'm a one chapter before bed kind of guy!).
I don't want to give too much story away in my review because it could easily be spoiled, but this is what I thought:
Thomas Kilbride is a schizophrenic man who spends all his days locked in his bedroom exploring the world via the internet using a website called Whirl360 (Google Street View). He believes he has to store all the information about every street in the world in his mind.
One day whilst exploring, Thomas sees a woman being killed through a window and then suddenly he and his brother, Ray are drawn into a large cover up which puts their lives in danger.
Ray suddenly finds himself having to look after Thomas from the start of the story as their father had died and Thomas isn't great at looking after himself with his condition.
The premise on the back of the book reveals that Thomas sees a murder in a window, but this event doesn't actually take place until after 100 pages into the book, so initially I thought it was going a bit slowly - but there are a number of characters to introduce and whilst I felt frustrated at the start that this main event hadn't happened yet, I understood why their were lengthy introductions. There are a lot of characters - the Kilbride Brothers, the love interest, a few family friends, a police officer, the murder victim, the "bad guys!", an assassin and a few more along the way.
They are all part of a story that has more twists and turns in it than you can imagine. In fact whilst I was reading I was pretty convinced that I knew exactly what was going to happen next and then BAM in a few words something completely different happens! This happens on a number of occasions.
The characters are all likeable and L.B. makes you feel for a number of them - characters that you will start off hating will gradually redeem themselves and you will feel for them also, including a villain. I'm not big on love interests, but Ray's is believable and helps bring some happiness into a mid-30's man who has just lost his Father and is now having to take care of his brother - she also provides some comedy moments as well.
Thomas, the map-obsessed character seems quite simple at first, but a number of things will occur relating to his character that will keep you guessing for many pages.
It goes in some very tense directions in the final fifth of the book - here you will literally not be able to put it down, the twists keep happening right up until the final few pages.
I like Linwood Barclay, he weaves a complex web that really pulls you in and he doesn't use lots of big words to do it! Not that I don't like nice long words, but I want to be a writer myself one day and if you want to say something then say it, don't get a thesaurus out and use a word that most readers will have to use a dictionary to understand!
The story is unbelievable and believable at the same time and is paced very well.
The book grabbed my attention alright and I must say, after I had read the final paragraph - my heart skipped a beat and I was staring at the page open mouthed and pretty speechless because as endings go, this is a belter!
I only have one con about this book - "Whirl360" is a strange name to use for the alternative to saying "Google Street View", im sure there were many alternative names and some copyright issues may have resulted in some not being used, but the name just didn't sound right every time I read it.
I recommend this book to anyone who likes a good suspense/mystery/thriller. It would also make a good film!
After taking a few months out from my favourite genre, suspense novels, I decided to sink back into it with the latest release from one of my favourite authors, Linwood Barclay. A fairly new author (and I say that in the loosest possible sense), he has only really begun releasing novels in the last few years, and catching on to him on his first release I have had to wait for the release date of each book rather than falling in love with an author and ordering every book they've ever written. It is because of this that I seem to have strong feelings towards each book, I either love them or hate them (I've only experienced feelings of the latter with one of his books). A former journalist for the Toronto Star, Barclays experiences at the paper, along with his English Literature degree have shaped him to be an outstanding author of standalone international best-selling novels.
Ray and Thomas Kilbride have just lost their father to a tragic accident. Bad enough for Ray to cope with, but he must now be the sole carer for Thomas, a schizophrenic but mild and complex character, with a fixation on internet site 'Whirl 360'. Whirl 360 (basically Google Street View) is a website allowing you to walk the streets of any street in the world, however Thomas spends every waking moment of his entire life memorizing each and every street in every major city of the world. When he sees what appears to be a murder in one of the windows on a street in New York, he convinces older brother Ray to take a look and before they know it they are tied up in a whole heap of trouble.
This book is one of the best books in its genre that I've read in a long time. Barclay has the ability to keep the reader enthralled, and I can't count the number of times I've stayed up too late reading this and have fallen asleep with a swift bang on the head when the iPad falls out of my hands! Each chapter builds up and leaves you in suspense (without having an over dramatic climax at the end of each chapter), especially as the story is split into parts and doesn't necessarily follow on with the same character. Packed full of suspense, the type that punches you in the gut and then runs away, this book will have you hooked from its interesting start to its fantastic ending. Whoa betide the next book that I have to read after this one!
My only negatives feelings that I had towards the book came when the reveals were taking place, and things were explained to the reader a little too simply, rather than Barclay giving the reader the opportunity to connect the dots as it were. Criticism aside, my general feelings towards the book were extremely positive and for this minor irritation I can forgive him!
Ray, as the lead character is extremely likeable. He brings humour to the book, yet you feel for him following the loss of his father and the new found burden that Thomas has become on his life.
Thomas, while less likeable than Ray, is still a character that you warm to, despite his paranoia and odd tendencies. The expectations he has of others (firstly his father, and now Ray) to look after him is quite frustrating to read at times, but has to be taken with a pinch of salt. He has the ability to wear Ray down in a way that I'm sure most of us can relate to in regards to one member of our family or another.
The thing that I liked about the book, in relation to pairing the specific characters with the plot, is that Ray is just a normal guy who is dragged into a whole new world of murder and deceit. Rather than the usual cop who discovers a crime and must work it all out, Ray is just any old guy in the street and that is what makes the book so terrifying.
The introduction of a third character which offers a love interest for Ray, wasn't needed in my opinion, as the two main characters and the plot had enough depth that a romance wasn't integral to the story, but it didn't ruin it either.
The two together work well, and the bond between brothers and the family unit, while unconventional, can be a pleasure to read.
The plot is a little far-fetched and quite complex in areas, however Barclay has such skill that it is completely believable for the reader. It flows well, in fact so well that despite the chapter breaks, it can be quite difficult to pull yourself away from it. A sign of a great book if ever there was one! As Thomas and Ray unwittingly wander deeper into the dangerous situation you know is coming, the book only becomes more addictive, as you start to realise what the implications of certain actions will be. The ending is another thumbs up, just when you think everything is being pulled together to conclude, you are hit with a twist that I certainly didn't see coming.
Although the main storyline is that of Thomas' quest to find out what happened in the window he saw on Whirl360, there are a few other sideline stories happening at the same time, which are also interesting, especially when you see them all skidding towards one another. Despite each chapter being centred on a different character, it is still easy to follow, and there isn't the need for the lazy 'Thomas' or 'Ray' headers at the beginning of each chapter to differentiate between the characters.
I thought about trying to summarise my feelings towards this book, but when I stumbled across this recommendation of the book from Stephen King, I couldn't help but think he said all I wanted to say but so much more eloquently! .... '"My idea of a sweet ride is three days of rain, a fridge filled with snacks, and a new Linwood Barclay. I just had all three. Trust Your Eyes is the best Barclay so far, a tale Hitchcock would have loved. It has more spins than the Whirl360 computer program Thomas Kilbride is so fascinated with. The book is riveting, frequently scary, occasionally funny, and surprisingly, wonderfully tender. I could believe this might happen to people living two streets over from me. Great entertainment from a suspense master."
Kindle edition £9.99
Barclay is a former newspaper columnist and the author of several internationally best selling thrillers. This author was recently chosen by my crime writing book group and I selected this book to read based on the interesting blurb.
Praise on the back of the book comes from the Financial Times, The Daily Mail, The Mirror and Stephen King, although, slightly irritatingly, it is not clear whether the praise is for this book, another book of Barclay's, or just the author generally. Regardless, the contributors may help to give you some idea of whether or not you are likely to enjoy a book by this author.
-- The blurb in brief --
While moving down a street one day Thomas spots a murder happening in a window. Should he tell anyone? The trouble is, he wasn't actually there. And it's unlikely anyone will believe him since he's not the most reliable witness...
I was hooked.
-- My initial thoughts --
The first few chapters felt awkward as Barclay tried to reveal and hide relevant background through rather clunky dialogue and irritating obfuscations. The blurb on the inside cover makes it clear that either Thomas thinks he's psychic or he's using something like Google street view so the comment that "He meandered down the center of the street, not particularly worried about traffic" felt pointless and clumsy. I quickly found myself getting a little irritated by the awkwardness of it all.
Initially, everything felt similarly clumsy. Characters have discussions they must logically have had before, which seem to happen purely in order to allow a gradual revealing of relevant information about Thomas, his brother Ray and the death of their father. The first time one particular new character, Allison, is introduced there are all kinds of points driven home for the reader in preparation for later events. On a first reading these points were already clunky. I felt sure that on a second reading they would be unbearable.
Of course, everything jars once a reader is predisposed to be critical. Suddenly the whole narrative seemed to consist of daft statements like "all someone had to do was wander through [the hallway] with a lit candle" to cause a fire. A lit candle? Have we suddenly gone back to the 1800s? Even in a power outage most people would reach for a torch. Niggles abounded and I wondered whether I would find the whole book just too irritating to finish.
-- Picking up pace --
As I read past the first few chapters these minor irritations dropped away and I realised I was gripped by the threads in this crime thriller, especially as Thomas and Ray waded unknowingly deeper into danger.
It quickly transpires that Thomas is a schizophrenic who has an astonishingly powerful memory. He believes there will soon be a catastrophic world event that will render his photographic memory of vital use to the CIA, and in the meantime he might be able to rescue a trapped agent or two. Utterly convinced of the importance of his future role, Thomas spends his days using Whirl360 (Google Streetview with a different name) to memorise tracts of various major cities and communicates regularly with the CIA and former US president Bill Clinton to keep them informed of his progress. As you do.
Meanwhile, his father has recently died in a slightly odd accident and his brother Ray has come home to organise the funeral and decide what to do about Thomas. Ray tries to be patient as he learns more about his brother's beliefs but struggles to cope and adopts a generally patronising attitude which means that he initially dismisses his brother's concerns about the scene in the window out of hand. One of the nicer aspects of the story is the way that local journalist (and obligatory love interest), Julie, encourages Ray to stop being so patronising and realise Thomas' strengths. The relationship between the brothers helps to make this more than just a standard thriller and I liked seeing Ray begin to really consider his brother's value. (After all, unsurprisingly for a crime thriller, Thomas is right: someone has been murdered.)
Once the story gets going there are some interesting twists, some minor, some major. I enjoyed this because it made the story gripping, especially as there are initially two different time periods some six months apart and it was interesting moving between them and seeing how the events in the past were affecting those in the present. Chapters often ended on dramatic revelations but, unlike James Patterson style thrillers or Point Horror writers, these were dramatic without being over-the-top shocking. I found that they interested me but didn't feel overly staged or cliffhangery, which can annoy me. I thought the final twist was particularly bold and effective as it was impossible to put the book down without thinking through the possible consequences but the book still felt 'finished' by ending where it did.
-- A gripping read --
Despite the main character being obsessed with maps and spending a lot of time on his computer, the narrative and dialogue is mercifully free of technical details and unnecessary geography. Often writers seem to feel the need to show off all the careful research they have been doing; there is none of that here and so the plot can continue to move at a good pace. There are some nice touches of humour along the way too as the criminals reflect on their past and on their career choices.
Barclay uses Ray as a first person narrator for most of the chapters which helps to add a sense of immediacy to the action. Chapters focusing solely on Thomas or characters involved in the murder are narrated by an omniscient voice. I found the switches between narrators easy to follow and felt that this approach worked well to allow the reader an insight into developments surrounding the murder.
I also liked the way the crime develops. It snowballs in a manner that is slightly farcical and new players are introduced gradually. I liked the mix of naive opportunists and hardened criminals and the way that one problem spirals out of control. It made the events seem more believable.
In the prologue there is a mysterious reference to a boy in a window. I liked the way that this rather odd comment gradually gained in significance as the narrative progressed and became quite significant. The denouement contains few surprises and is quite talky as characters try to explain their actions to other characters. Despite this I felt that the ending worked well to tie up the various plot elements in a satisfactory way. There is a brief final chapter that works as an epilogue and gives an effective coda to the whole story.
-- Conclusions: --
After a rocky start I really enjoyed this crime thriller and will be keeping an eye out for other books by Barclay. I liked the depth added to the basic plot by the relationships between the brothers, although the obligatory blossoming romantic relationship left me cold. I enjoyed the touches of humour sprinkled throughout and felt that the plot was suitably dramatic without becoming ridiculous. Although the beginning was clumsily constructed the ending was well-handled. Chapters short and pacey, appropriate for the genre without being ridiculously short (or indeed irritatingly long). The same can be said for the length of the book itself which runs to 498 pages of approximately size 14 font: enough length to develop the story, not enough to send a reader to sleep. The criminal proceedings are easy to follow while still being engaging and the topic (political manoeuvrings and corruption) is very relevant and therefore likely to have a wide appeal for contemporary readers of crime fiction.
The RRP is a rather eye-watering £18.99 which I personally feel is rather expensive for a work of fiction, even if it is in hardback. On the plus side, most retailers are selling it for rather less (currently £12 from some online sellers) and due to the nature of story you could happily re-read this after a decent interval without feeling like it was a complete waste of time. Still, I would be tempted to wait for this to come out in paperback unless you are a big fan of Barclay's. Even the kindle version is currently retailing at £9.99. Recommended - but shop around.
Read this if:
- you enjoy crime thrillers which follow the investigations of complete amateurs who happen to become involved in the crime;
- you have enough patience to disregard a slightly awkward beginning and remain interested during a rather talky conclusion;
- you like books in which all the threads are carefully prepared and neatly drawn together the end.
Avoid this if:
- you prefer your crime thrillers to follow the investigations of professionals and focus on clues / forensics / mysteries;
- you like to discover who-dunnit at the end, rather than observing the criminals throughout and simply waiting for the main characters to work out who and what they are dealing with;
- you like crime thrillers with high stakes (there's no danger of the world ending here)...or don't like crime thrillers at all!
Edition being reviewed:-
Publisher: Orion (27th September 2012)
Trust Your Eyes is the 5th Linwood Barclay book I have read and it is definitely my most favourite so far.
I came across it by somewhat of an accident as I bought it for a relative who asked for it for Christmas but it turned out someone else had also bought it for her so I decided to keep and read it myself.
I'm not going to go into the premise of the book too much as I don't want to give away any spoilers. However, I will say that when I started reading and the premise became clear I thought it was a very clever idea and I was surprised that it had not been thought of before.
The blurb from the inside sleeve of the book draws you in by simply telling you:-
'A man is moving down a street on Manhattan's Lower East Side, scanning the storefronts, taking in his surroundings, when he sees something in a third-floor tenement window. A woman's face, distorted with terror. Thomas is convinced he's witnessing a murder. Except that things aren't quite as simple as that. To some people, Thomas Kilbride wouldn't exactly be the most reliable of witnesses, and it's going to be very difficult to persuade the police to investigate. Because Thomas was never actually there. And the murder was months ago. But Thomas trusts his eyes. And that could be his biggest mistake'.
As it would suggest, the story is largely centred around a man called Thomas Kilbride. However, it is Thomas' brother, Ray, who tells the story in the first person and therefore comes across as the main character of the story. Ray is a successful artist, specialising in illustrations for newspapers in New York. When his father passes away, he moves into the family home in Promise Falls temporarily to deal with his father's affairs and take care of his younger brother, Thomas. This is where the story starts.
It is apparent from the beginning that there is something a little different about Thomas and it soon becomes clear that he is a schizophrenic. He has a serious obsession with maps, highlighted by the top floor of the home he lived in with his parents, until they died, which is covered floor to ceiling in maps of the world. Thomas spends the majority of his day on the internet on a site called 'Whirl 360' (basically Google Street Maps) believing that he is employed by the CIA on a Black Ops mission. Ray tries to make Thomas become a bit more independent in making lunch and washing dishes but Thomas is far too used to being looked after by his dad that it is not an easy job.
The story switches back and forth between Ray in the first person in present time and a few other main characters in the past. Again I won't go into too much detail as I don't want to give anything away. The switches back and forth however are clear and it is never confusing due to the switch between first and third person writing. It also helps to build the story as you are reading rather than giving too much away early on.
The ending was slightly predictable but in no way changed my enjoyment of it. I stormed through this book, reading it in a weekend. The premise had me interested from the beginning, the pace of the writing had me turning page after page. The chapters were short and punchy, some only a couple of pages. There was a definite excitement in reading this, similar to watching a thriller movie when you find yourself saying out loud 'don't go in there!' and 'run you idiot!' - though maybe that's just me! The characters were well thought out and always important to the story. I found myself endeared to Thomas and sympathetic to Ray.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it. Trust Your Eyes has everything a good thriller should have - conspiracies, murders, coincidental 'wrong place at wrong time' that causes a domino effect of epic proportions and a couple of characters you just want to punch!
I read the hardback version of the book which was £9.99 from Amazon (currently £11.39) but is also available in paperback for £6.39 or on Kindle edition for £9.99.
Thanks for Reading
(This Review is also on Ciao)