Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Linwood Barclay asks, “What if…”

The Accident
by Linwood Barclay

Two years ago, a New York woman caused a drunk driving accident that killed eight people, including herself and several children. She was severely impaired, and yet no one in her life seemed to be aware she had a substance abuse problem. All of America watched the tragedy unfold in horrified speculation. And thriller writer Linwood Barclay looked at the news coverage and said, “What if…”

What if there’s more to this story than meets the eye? Because in the opening pages of his new novel, The Accident, protagonist Glen Garber is coping with a similar situation. His wife Sheila, a social drinker at most, has caused a traffic accident that took her life and the lives of innocents in another car. Her blood alcohol level is off the charts. The only blessing is that their eight-year-old daughter, Kelly, was not with her.

As Glen and Kelly try to pull themselves together and move forward with their lives, a series of strange and menacing events occurs. Kelly accidentally overhears something while on a sleep-over at her best-friend’s home. The parental reaction seems entirely out of proportion. The economy is hitting their part of Connecticut hard. Everyone seems to be hurting for cash. The question is: what are these suburbanites willing to get mixed up in to get it? Glen seems to be surrounded by weirdness on all sides, and is now reevaluating people he’s known and trusted for years, as slowly events begin to cast Sheila’s accident in a new light.

This was my introduction to Linwood Barclay’s work, and The Accident was an enjoyable thriller all around. Glen was an appealing everyman in a bad situation. It was easy to empathize with him. Supporting characters may not have been as well-developed, but they fulfilled their function within the plot. As for the plot, it was enjoyably convoluted, and unfolded a measured pace that kept me turning the pages. All in all, it was a quick, enjoyable, not-too-challenging read. Bonus points to Barclay for writing stand-alone novels instead of the all-too-ubiquitous series I see everywhere these days. I’ll look forward to seeing what he produces next, and may have to check out his backlist as well.

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