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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.
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on 19 January 2010
I started reading this at 8pm last night and didn't put it down until 1am the next morning! It was a very addictive and enjoyable read, yet I felt that it wasn't quite as good as his first novel. Some details seemed a bit too over-the-top, and the formula was quite similar to that of Barclay's first novel. As much as I enjoyed reading this book there were several points where I was reminded of 'No Time for Goodbye' or simply thought, "Wait, the author expects us to believe that this could happen in real life? This isn't a James Bond movie!" However, despite this, it was a very exciting and original story and incredibly hard to put down. Recommended if you like action-packed thrillers and don't mind your books becoming a little bit over-the-top when it comes to scenes involving cars, guns and the hero single-handedly beating all the bad guys.
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on 22 February 2010
This is a great book with well created characters and an intricate plot line which is thoroughly enjoyable just so long as you don't take it too seriously. I can understand why someone would get rather frustrated towards the end when the plot disintegrates into something so unrealistic and impossible but I just enjoyed the ride - it is fiction after all. I would suggest this as an excellent holiday read or for putting your feet up with in the evening after a long day. For me, this wasn't as good as his first two novels and doesn't compare to some of the masters of this genre (Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly) but it does entertain and it is compelling. It's like watching a Bruce Willis movie - none of this stuff could really happen but you don't care because you're having fun! In fact, Bruce Willis probably could make a good movie out of this!!!!
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on 8 February 2011
This is the second book from linwood barlcay that i have read, the first was NO TIME FOR GOODBYE, reading this story i was hooked and had to buy another.
I have just finished reading FEAR THE WORST, and i thougth how clever linwood was by including his last book in this tale, it really brought it together for me, i will be ordering more of his books and cant wait to read them
any one that wants a onestop read, keeping you second guessing yourselves the linwoods collection is the recommended read from me.
5 stars
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 7 December 2016
Linwood Barclay’s book deals with every parents’ nightmare, the disappearance of their child. In this case it is Sydney, ‘Syd’, Blake, daughter of Connecticut car salesman Tim and his ex-wife, Suzanne, who is currently living with Bob, another car salesman who has his own dealership chain. Unsurprisingly vehicles feature highly in this story – at times it is like ploughing through paragraphs in a motoring magazine. However, this is justified given that Tim is the narrator and his monthly sales are slipping.

The author engages the reader with his opening lines, ‘The morning of the day I lost her, my daughter asked me to scramble her some eggs.’ Seventeen-year-old Syd is staying with her father and doing summer work at a nearby hotel. When she fails to return home one evening Tim goes to hotel, only to find that they have never heard of his daughter.

At first Timothy tries to continue working whilst putting up a website about his missing daughter. He has a reply from someone working in a homeless people’s shelter in Seattle who claims to have seen Sydney and sends him a photograph to prove it. Tim immediately sets out to follow this lead and, by uncovering unexpected information about his daughter, gradually becomes sucked into a world that he could little have imagined.

After initially calling in the police, Tim becomes disillusioned with their efforts and eventually gives up work to spend all his times searching for Syd assisted by Suzanne, Bob and a rather ineffective investigator. However, there are also other people hunting for Syd who certainly do not have her best interests in mind.

The plot is action-packed, although rather slow to develop, with Tim moving from one violent situation to another, leaving both blood and bodies behind. The writing style is functional but surprisingly choppy, with each chapter closing in a manner that demands the reader turn the page. The characterisation is much weaker, especially the female characters; Suzanne seems surprisingly little affected and carries on with her work throughout. To a degree this weakness is balanced by the book’s humour, most notable around the characters of a flower deliverer, Ian, and his tongue-tied girlfriend, Juanita. Italicised flashbacks to periods in the young Sydney’s life add little to the story.

The only point where the characters take on any depth is in the complex interactions between Timothy, Suzanne and Bob. The writing here is very convincing, especially as the two men begin an edgy, yet psychologically believable, relationship.

Throughout Tim is surprisingly naïve and gullible, and his escape from several violent situations seems out of character. A more believable character would have resolved the situation in a much shorter time, creating a book very much shorter than its 471 pages. However, Barclay does convey Tim’s agony and anguish very sharply as the time passes ‘You go on but you don’t go on. Because there’s this weight, and you can feel it all the time, like you’ve got a cinder block ­sitting on each shoulder, pushing you down, wearing you out, making you wonder whether you’ll be able to get up the next day.’

The ending is rapid, too rapid, and involves deaths that remove any resolution of a second storyline, rather unlikely but very interesting, that emerges half way through the book. Although gripping at times, this book ultimately disappoints.
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on 1 November 2016
With Fear the Worst, Barclay’s trademark mix of domesticity and dread is apparent right from the gut-check opening line: “The morning of the day I lost her, my daughter asked me to scramble her some eggs.” What starts out as an ordinary day in an increasingly ordinary life for car salesman Tim Blake, takes a troubling turn when his daughter Sydney doesn’t return home from her summer job at a local motel. Troubling becomes terrifying when Tim discovers Sydney never worked at the motel at all. Now Tim doesn't need to simply track Sydney down - he needs to find out who his daughter really was, and why she was lying to him. Only one thing has him convinced the worst hasn't already happened: the fact that some very scary people seem just as eager as he is to find her. By any means necessary.

Unlike many thriller heroes, middle-aged Tim is a very ordinary man. He’s no spy, cop, or soldier. Nor does he have the naturally investigative background of a lawyer, writer, or other traditional amateur detective stereotype. Instead he is at that somewhat beaten-down point in his life where his ledger shows more losses than wins; his first marriage disintegrated, his own car dealership went bust, and he struggles to deal with his increasingly rebellious teenage daughter.

And it’s all of this that helps make Tim’s everyman efforts to find his daughter even more compelling and real. An engrossing storyline peppered with plot twists and filled with layered and recognisably human characters – Fear the Worst was one of the top thrillers of that year.
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on 22 October 2016
My first encounter with Linwood Barclay came through A Tap on the Window, a book which I thoroughly enjoyed. I planned to buy more Linwood Barclay books when a relative of mine offered me some of her books to read, two of which were Linwood Barclay books. Needless to say, I was over the moon and quickly jumped in.

I was not at all disappointed by Fear the Worst. As with A Tap on the Window (and the other Linwood Barclay books which I have gone on to read following Fear the Worst) it was a great book which keeps you gripped from the start until the end.

The book follows Tim Blake as he heads on the search for his now missing daughter. Being another fast paced read, we’re soon running around as Tim searches under every stone for his daughter, unwilling to let anything go. Within the book there were a couple of predictable moments, although these were in regard to the choices made by characters and not the twists and turns which appear. I think what played into that was the fact that Tim is a bit of a blubbering mess at times, jumping around in his hectic search for Sydney (a seemingly intended character trait which allowed the story to progress in the gripping way that it did).

By the end of the book all mysteries are brought to an end, leaving us content with our answers. As with A Tap on the Window the ending was a bit of a heartbreaker, although nowhere near as painful to read. Whilst it wasn’t my favourite ending in the world it certainly brought everything home.
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Linwood Barclay explains that his own daughter gave him the idea for `Fear the Worst' with her throwaway question "Suppose you came to pick me up at my job, and found out I'd never worked there?"

So, here he gives us a gripping, raw, scenario, the everyday ground beneath suddenly unstable, a chilling thought. What to do next, where to go, whom to blame, whom to trust? So many byways and clues some of which lead nowhere and are plain misleading.

Hidden in the story is a nicely placed confidential nod to a previous book. No Time For Goodbye and Too Close to Home are both exciting, involving stories. At first I wondered if I'd read `Fear the Worst' already but then realised it is rather like a Harlan Coben book, initially along the same lines.

LB fleshes out the workaday dynamics of a broken family, with the painful view of loving parents who have split up but still regret this rather, despite having `moved on'. The thoughtful coming to terms with their situation and the parts they played in it by Tim and his ex, Suzanne, who are still fond of each other, rings very true.

Tim works for a car dealership, so there's much about the ins and outs of car sales, which is intriguing. L B says that he used friends who were retired car salesmen to fill him in on all the angles. Living alone, except for when Sydney joins him, Tim is having a struggle. Suzanne is now settled with a more successful dealer, Bob, he is at first a cardboard character treated with derision by Tim but later he emerges as a more realistic, likeable man.

Blond, attractive feisty Sydney, aka Francine, is just seventeen. You don't get too much of a grip on her as she is only seen from her father's subjective viewpoint. She could be anyone, doing anything. And now she's gone.

I felt slightly queasy reading `Fear the Worst', with it being written at a jerky, stop start, pace. I felt as though I were in a car that was being badly driven. So many dramas, from the outset it's all go; flying miles across the USA, chasing and accusing possible suspects, searches and encounters, all under pressure. Thrown around during cross-country chases, evaluating approaches from all corners. Later being helpless party to a frighteningly well- sustained, violent showdown in a car showroom; standing in the shadows watching a staged encounter under a covered bridge. However will it end?

Impossibly hard to let go of the book until you know what happens, so be prepared for an uncomfortable, frightening, bumpy ride/read...
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on 20 July 2011
I am a big fan of crime/thriller/suspense novels and I thought it could never get better than the books of Harlan Coben. How wrong I was! Lynwood Barclay is up there with Harlan Coben, his style is very easy-flowing and gripping, and keeps you guessing right till the end of the book. Thoroughly recommend it for anyone who likes crime/detective stories.
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on 23 January 2016
This was terrific !! Each one of his I read seems to be better than the last (even though I pick them by price at the time so read them out of publishing order). It was another long story which I prefer but the action and interest stayed with it the whole way. I really enjoyed it. Loved the cover as well-it brought to mind The Bridges of Madison County.
I must say I liked Patty, Sydney's pal more than I liked Sydney. She was a great character, I thought. A lot of the incidental characters were interesting-Bob, Evan, Richard, Ian.....all fascinating in their own way and he gave us a little insight into each of their lives as well. There were a LOT of very funny, snarky little asides that left me highly amused, too.
I did spot a couple of dropped apostrophes and one dropped fullstop RIGHT at a crucial moment which made me huff !! However, it is a tremendous story and well worth your time.
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