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Too slow, and the ending is weak
on 19 July 2009
What would you do if your teenage daughter vanished one day, without warning? That's what happens to Tim Blake. After his daughter Sydney fails to come home, he goes to her workplace to see if she turned up for work that day, but they tell him they don't know her and she's never worked there. Then her car turns up with bloodstains in it - and suddenly the police seem to think that he's the most likely suspect behind her disappearance.
It's an intriguing premise, but Fear The Worst is a very slow build. Barclay's other books grabbed me from the outset, but this one took me a long time to pull me in and I have to say that I never felt particularly hooked. Things do happen: in fact, the plot is littered with clues (and red herrings), but rather than building the intrigue they somehow just feel formulaic. None of the characters feel like real people, but the villains are particularly devoid of any reason for existing other than to be villainous.
The plot reminded me in many ways of Hold Tight by Harlan Coben (also a thriller about a father searching for his missing teen). But unlike Coben's intricate storyline, Fear The Worst is almost entirely devoid of sub-plots. With hindsight, I can see that this book was carefully plotted. Almost every character has a reason for being introduced, almost every casual conversation has some later relevance. But the net effect is that it takes a long time to get anywhere and I for one got bored.
This is the third Linwood Barclay novel that I've read and I have to say that endings are not his strong point. The ending of this book is not quite as silly as No Time For Goodbye (which jumped the shark in a big way), but it comes close. The good thing is that he doesn't drag it out - however this also means that several plot elements are never resolved. It would have been more satisfying to know what happened next, and it also would have been more satisfying to understand who the villains were and why they were doing what they did.
Not a total disaster - but very disappointing. If you're new to Linwood Barclay, I recommend reading Too Close To Home instead. Or my favourite recent discovery is the Alex McKnight series by Steve Hamilton: start with A Cold Day in Paradise.