Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Review - Too close to home

Too close to home – Linwood Barclay
Too Close to Home
I really enjoyed Linwood Barclay’s first novel. It was very much in the mold of Harlan Coben’s standalone novels. I.e. good characters and fascinating plot twists. What I especially liked, is that they focus on ordinary family’s and explore how they would react if the unimaginable happened and how far they would be willing to go to protect your family.
The blurb:
When the Cutter family's next-door-neighbours, the Langleys, are gunned down in their house one hot August night, the Cutters' world is turned upside down. That violent death should have come so close to them is shocking enough in suburban Promise Falls, but at least the Cutters can console themselves with the thought that lightning is unlikely to strike twice in the same place. Unless, of course, the killers went to the wrong house...
At first the idea seems crazy - but each of the Cutter family has a secret they'd rather keep buried. What was on that old computer teenage Derek and his friend Adam Langley had salvaged? And where is it now? What hold does a local professor and bestselling author have on Ellen Cutter? And what does Jim Cutter know about Mrs Langley that even her husband didn't?
To find out who killed the Langleys and why, everybody's secrets are going to have to come out. But the final secret - the secret that could save them or destroy them - is in the one place nobody would ever think of looking...
Too close to home is another winner. A chilling opening chapter paves the way for the start of the unravelling of multiple mysteries. Family members all have secrets in their past that they wish to remain buried. But at the same time, these secrets are realistic. The kind of thing that could happen to you or me and that we might keep from our loved ones. The result is that the reader is immediately immersed in the story and is swept along at a frantic pace.
The story focuses on the Cutter family and in particular the father Jim. Jim is a disillusioned artist, lacking in confidence and is not convinced his work is any good. As a result he had taken a number of jobs that do not fulfil him. One of these was working for the local Mayor, a man Jim is disgusted with and who regularly offends Jim’s principles.  
As with all stories of this ilk, every little detail is vital: Jim’s relationship with the Mayor – crucial; His wife’s relationship to her boss – relevant; Derek’s hobby – vital. The good thing about Linwood’s plotting though, is that nothing mentioned feels forced or contrived in any way. Linwood manages to slot in all these plot elements so that they are unravelled naturally and logically.
Although the identity of the killer can be seen a mile off, seriously a blind man in the dark with a blindfold on could see this one coming (not sure that the dark and blindfold actually make a difference in my analogy – if you’re blind, you’re blind), this does not matter. The story is still gripping and there are still aspects of the plot that are wrapped up nicely in the end.
All of the characters have something to them. They are fleshed out just enough to be interesting and are likeable enough for you to care about them.
There are some negative points. Jim is uncharacteristically trusting of certain people given the circumstances of the past few days and some prominent characters fade into the background by the end of the novel which is disappointing.
The ending, is more exciting than your average novel of this kind with a degree of unpredictability to it. My wife has read the rest of Linwood’s novels and raves about them. I think I will have to follow suit.
My rating: 8.6