Category: Thriller, Psychological, Suspense, Mystery, Book Review
College professor Paul Davis is a normal guy with a normal life. Until, driving along a deserted road late one night, he surprises a murderer disposing of a couple of bodies. That’s when Paul’s “normal” existence is turned upside down. After nearly losing his own life in that encounter, he finds himself battling PTSD, depression, and severe problems at work. His wife, Charlotte, desperate to cheer him up, brings home a vintage typewriter—complete with ink ribbons and heavy round keys—to encourage him to get started on that novel he’s always intended to write.
Paul Davis is on his way home late one night when he sees the car in front has a cracked tail light and is being driven erratically.
Realising it’s his colleague, Kenneth Hoffman, Paul decides to try to get Kenneth to stop, not sure if he’s drunk or looking for somewhere particular. Then Kenneth’s car pulls off onto the pavement. Paul pulls up behind him, ready to offer assistance, but instead makes a shocking discovery which earns him a blow on the head that nearly kills him.
“Who are they?’ Paul said, his voice shaking. “Tell me who they are.” He couldn’t look at them any longer, and turned away.
“I’m sorry about this,” Kenneth said.
Paul turned. “You’re sorry about — “
He saw the shovel Kenneth wielded, club-like, for no more than a tenth of a second before it connected with his skull.
Then everything went black.
The story picks up eight months later. Hoffman is in jail having pleaded guilty to murder and attempted murder. Paul is still recovering, seeing his therapist, Dr Anna White, regularly to help him move forward and live as normal a home life as possible. Returning to work seems a long way off considering the nightmares, memory lapses and PTSD like symptoms, among other things. Paul considers writing about his experiences, hoping attempting to put it into words and trying to determine what drove his former colleague to murder, might help him come to terms with what has happened. But things escalate when his wife surprises him with an old style typewriter, hoping it will encourage his creativity while giving him something to focus on.
This is initially character driven while we become acquainted with the main players, starting slowly after the prologue and building gradually, then taking off at a fast sprint with much more action. It’s mostly told from three perspectives – Paul, Charlotte, his second wife and Anna. The diverse and intriguing characters are crafted beautifully, the atmosphere throughout is palpable as the reader is hooked into the story, always with a sense of suspicion and impending doom. Paul invites sympathy, he’s had such a rough deal and it’s not getting any better as he begins to question his sanity and second guess everything that’s happening. The scenes are set perfectly and the pacing keeps the suspense high.
There’s a good selection of suspects, several complex threads that pull together as the plot thickens, clever and unexpected twists, a particular one that threw me completely, and a dramatic ending. A fantastically twisty thriller that was hard to put down.
Linwood Barclay is a former columnist for The Toronto Star and the author of several critically acclaimed novels, including Too Close to Home and No Time for Goodbye, a #1 Sunday Times (UK) bestseller. He lives near Toronto with his wife.