I'm reading my little head off at the moment, though the results have not been manifest on here, for reasons that will soon become apparent. But I always have an audiobook on the go, and I recently discovered the intelligent crime novels of Linwood Barclay, which are just the job for listening to in the car, or at wakeful times in the night. The first one I listened to was A Tap on the Window, which I was certain I had reviewed on here, but apparently didn't. A pity, as I thought it was an excellent novel, but can't now remember enough about it to give it a proper review -- one of the disadvantages of an audiobook, I suppose, as you can't flick back through it later.
Anyway, I just finished this one, and so this is the one you're going to hear about. From my limited experience of Barclay, he seems to be a specialist in just the sort of crime novel I really enjoy -- one that starts with an apparently inexplicable mystery, which gradually unravels over the course of the narrative. Here we have what surely must be every parent's worst nightmare -- you take your small child to an amusement park, turn your back for a moment, and discover he's disappeared. That's what happens to journalist David Harwood -- hence the title -- but that is only the tip of the iceberg of the terrible events that are set in motion afterwards. For young Ethan turns up shortly afterwards, sitting sleepily in his stroller and unable to remember exactly what happened or who took him away. But now his mother, David's wife Jan, has completely vanished, and David is desperately worried for her safety, as she has been complaining of deep depression for the past several weeks. Or so David says. The problem is, nobody else has heard Jan say she is depressed -- she said she'd visited the doctor but apparently she didn't -- there's no evidence of her going into or out of the amusement park or even buying a third ticket, though David is adamant that she did both -- and so on and on. The police, to whom he turns in the hope that they will help him find her, are convinced that David has murdered her, and the facts seems to point inexorably to that conclusion. Can David prove his innocence, and find out what really happened to Jan?
I found all this early part of the novel absolutely rivetting, and Barclay handles really well the way that David's investigations reveal things which enable to reader to begin to put together what must actually have happened but which he himself is unable to work out. I was less enamoured of the later section, where the truth began to be revealed. Here the action got pumped up many notches, and there were rather too many weapons and bad guys for my liking. You'd be justified in saying I shouldn't read crime novels if I don't like these fairly crucial elements, but that's why I try to be pretty selective of what kind of crime novels I read.
I haven't been put off Barclay, though -- far from it. Judging from what I've read so far, he is particularly good at families and the way they relate to each other -- here we have David's parents, warm and supportive but immensely human and believable, and four-year-old Ethan, a superb little character -- it's almost worth reading the novel for him alone. There's a lot of love and warmth here, and despite the shocking revelations towards the end, it's possible to believe that lives will be picked up and wounds mended. Nice. I'll be listening to more of these.