Monday, September 2, 2013

Book Review - Fear the Worst

Fear the Worst – Linwood Barclay
My wife introduced me to Linwood Barclay last year. His first two books were very much in the same mold as Harlan Coben’s standalone novels, although they zip along at twice the speed. Sometimes you just fancy a quick thriller.
The blurb:
That's what Tim Blake finds himself asking when his daughter Sydney vanishes into thin air. At the hotel where she was supposedly working, no one has ever heard of her. Even her closest friends can't tell him what Sydney was really doing in the weeks before her disappearance. Now as the days pass without a word, Tim is forced to face not only the fact that Sydney is missing but that the daughter he's loved and nurtured, the daughter he thought he knew as well as anyone, is a virtual stranger.

As he retraces Sydney's steps, searching for clues to her secret life, Tim discovers that the suburban Connecticut town he always thought of as perfectly ordinary has a darker side. But what he doesn't know is just how dark. Because while he's out searching for his daughter, questioning everyone who might have known her, someone is watching him.

For Tim isn't the only one who'll do anything to find Syd. Whatever trouble she's in, there's a lot more on the way.and it's following in Tim's footsteps. The closer Tim comes to the truth, the closer he comes to every parent's worst nightmare.and the kind of evil only a parent's love has a chance in hell of stopping.
I find these type of books strange. When you break it down they all follow the same premise: Someone in a family goes missing, their loved one looks for them and in doing so discover that the missing person’s life was full of secrets beyond everyone’s wildest dreams. The thing is, I have read a ton of these books now and never get bored of the concept.
A lot of the time they are far-fetched but there is something how they involve ordinary people that make them seem very realistic. It could happen to you and that is the scary thing.
“Fear the Worst” is one of the better versions of these stories. Linwood Barclay has managed to include so many twists and turns in this novel that at one point I actually sat back and reflected on how sorry I felt for the protagonist.
The said protagonist is Tim. He is instantly likeable. His wife has left him and although bitter about the whole scenario, he does not wallow in self-pity. Instead, he is your every day man. He reacts to situations in a way you would expect, which makes you instantly root for him.
The supporting cast is strong. Tim’s ex wife is fairly complex. She has her new man but although there are issues with Tim, the two have a pragmatic relationship. It is nice to see, so often the easy route in fiction is to have divorced couples butting heads.
Her new husband Bob is great. He has some characteristics that mark him out to be a bit of an ass, but again Linwood avoids the easy route of having the reader hate him, by giving him several redeemable features. Everything he does also makes sense.
Perhaps the best character is Patty. Patty is the best friend of Tim’s missing daughter Syd. She is the typical, troubled teenager but has a level of complexity to her that endears the reader. Every time she acts in a positive way, she immediately makes a mistake or gets into trouble.
Linwood Barclay introduces a whole host of other characters but all of them are utilised effectively and all serve to add unexpected obstacles to the plot and throw the reader off course.
As for the story, I mentioned the pace of the plot moves on at a million miles an hour, but Barclay also allows several moments of reflection and for Tim to really allow the events to hit him. Some of them are quite emotional which is rare for a book of this ilk.
If I had a minor complaint is the ending needed a little bit more. The actual climax is good but I felt the book was in dire need of an epilogue, just to wrap up all the loose ends and explain the outcome of several of the character’s fates.
Overall, I thought “Fear the Worst” was great. I devoured the book in two days and loved every minute of it. The characters were more than just your two dimensional plot devices and I actually cared what happened to them.
My rating: 8.7