A few years ago, one of those lovely suggestions that Amazon does popped up: “for fans of Harlan Coben, try Linwood Barclay.” Having read every one of Coben’s novels, I gave Never Look Away a spin, about a man who loses sight of his wife at an amusement park and sets in motion a seriously trippy Hitchockian story. I was hooked. [The fact that Barclay also responded favorably to charity requests of signed autographs only increased my appreciation!] Requesting the mass market release of his book A Tap on the Window seemed relevant, with No Safe House just around the corner.
In Tap on the Window, ex-cop/current private investigator Carl Weaver fights his gut feeling and picks up teenage Claire Saunders on a rainy night. When she trades places with another teen named Hanna, who is subsequently found murdered, Weaver is drawn into a web of violence and secrets that may include Claire’s mayoral father and Weaver’s brother-in-law, the chief of police. With Barclay, no small-town is safe, or free of dirty little secrets, and every police force is capable of … anything.
One of the best aspects of this particular Barclay page turner is the exploration of grief. Weaver and his wife, Donna, both grieve their suicidal son’s death differently. Weaver searches for clues, interviews potential witnesses, to his son’s drug use and mind at the time of his death; his wife draws pictures of him, frustrated by their potential for capturing their son’s image and yet the way they fail to show his true nature. But their methods fail to draw them together, and instead hold the power of ripping the two of them apart. It’s not the main thing Barclay is writing about (that’s the disappearance of Claire), but it’s one of the ways that fleshes this story out and makes it more interesting.
You may, or may not, guess who did it- what- which things, but that’s not really the point. We want so badly to make things right for Carl, who seems genuinely good and genuinely compassionate. We want the justice we believe in to be brought to this town, which doesn’t pass the smell test, which doesn’t make us feel right, even though we know this is fiction. We know something isn’t right and we know, if we’ve read enough Barclay, that everything won’t be alright in the end, but it will be made… right.