Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The Accident by LInwood Barclay

Linwood Barclay has shot to prominence in recent years as an author of blockbusting thrillers. Although I've never met him, I attended an event at Harrogate in which, despite being questioned by an unfortunate interviewer who seemed to have succumbed to stagefright, he came over as a very affable and charming chap. At the time, giveaways of the first chapter of his latest book, The Accident, were distributed, and I thought that when I had a chance, I'd read the whole book.

This I've now done, and it's a very competent example of its kind. Decent entertainment, and I also enjoyed trying to analyse the method Barclay adopted in writing it. The book begins with a prologue which is dramatic but at one remove from the rest of the story - not a device that an author can use too often, I'd say. It ushers in a mystery which is mainly - but not entirely - about a corrupt scheme to sell bogus merchandise on the cheap. Unexpectedly, I found the main storyline less gripping than the sub-plot.

Most of the story is told in the first person by Glen, a likeable chap who isn't very fast on the uptake. Glen's wife Sheila is found dead after an apparent car accident. It seems as though she was a drink-driver, but Glen finds this hard to swallow. (I also found it difficult to believe that he would be sued for a massive sum by the family of the other people who died in the crash, and even if it's possible in US law, I'm not sure it was a necessary or convincing element of the plot.)

The limitations of first person narrative are dodged, as is sometimes the case in modern thrillers (the S.J. Bolton book I reviewed last week is another example), by the inclusion of a number of chapters from other viewpoints. The pace is relentless, but I felt the story sagged a bit before being wowed by two excellent twists. The first is cleverly clued (though one clue, from the recording of a telephone call, appeared on the printed page in a misleading way). The second reveals a hitherto unsuspected crime - very neatly done.

All in all, this book made a pleasant light read. Thanks mainly to that excellent double finale, I'll certainly be happy to read Linwood Barclay again.

8 comments:

Dr. Evangelicus said...

As a Canadian reader I find it frustrating that Barclay, a Canadian who has lived and worked in Toronto all his life, sets each and every one of his novels in another country, the United States. It's like someone born & bred and writing in Cheshire setting all their novels in France!

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - I'm glad you got the chance to read some Linwood Barclay and quite pleased you liked what you read. I enjoy his work too; I think he makes excellent use of humour and he does integrate some very clever plot points.

harriet said...

By coincidence I've just finished my first Linwood Barclay -- No Time to Say Goodbye. I found the first three quarters of it absolutely gripping -- the wind-up slightly less so, and I did guess something about the identity of a "surprise" twist well before the end. I thought I might try another one sometime but I'm not rushing out to get one. By the sound of it, this isn't the one, anyway! Thanks.

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Dr Evangelicus, nice to hear from you. Interesting point, thank you. And I promise not to write any novels set in France in the near future! Mind you, I once met a Liverpudlian who thought a chap from Cheshire shouldn't be allowed to write a book set in Liverpool, which I think was a bit harsh!

Martin Edwards said...

Margot, it's a good point about his humour, and to my mind humour almost always helps with a crime novel, however dark, if well done.

Martin Edwards said...

Harriet, always good to hear from you. I have a copy of No Time to Say Goodbye, so I may give that a go before long. Family members who read it have disagreed with each other about its merits!

Linwood Barclay said...

The anonymous and misinformed Dr. Evangelicus might be interested to know that I hold dual citizenship. I was born in the U.S., in the area where many of my books are set, but my parents did move to Canada when I was four years old. I did work in Toronto, at the Star, for 27 years, but have never lived in the city. This may not change the good doctor's opinion, but those are the facts. Nice blog, Martin.

Martin Edwards said...

Hello Linwood, great to hear from you, and thanks very much for explaining the position.