THE ACCIDENT by Linwood Barclay
Linwood Barclay’s new book, The Accident, was a slow burn that grew on me, then left me mostly happy but aware that I was listening to a book, a collection of artificed events. I kept losing that willing suspension of disbelief and coming back to the fact that I was involved with a narrative designed to draw me into a story and characters.
I really enjoyed Barclay’s development of Glen Garber, the blue collar housing contractor that tells much of the story in first person narrative. Glen is a guy I could know, and the audiobook reader’s handling of the delivery was spot on for this.
At the start of the novel, Glen is battered and on the ropes like so many people trapped in this present economy. His business has taken some hits and dried up, and one of his houses burned down before he finished it. On top of that, the insurance company is dragging its feet about paying off on the loss.
Then his wife fails to come home. In a short time, Glen discovers the scene of a horrible accident and learns that Sheila is not only dead, but it looks like she got drunk and passed out, causing the deaths of two other people.
Shelia’s death is followed by two others, and events spin completely out of control in Glen’s life. I was mesmerized by his struggles as he tries to make sense of everything, and was wary as all the friendships he has suddenly start shifting around him.
In many respects, the novel is like real life. Glen gets hammered on every side, by his losses – wife and finances, by the police as they start circling him because he seems to be near the center of all three murder investigations, and by his mother-in-law – who holds him responsible for her daughter’s death because he didn’t know about Sheila’s supposed “secret” life.
Even Glen’s daughter turns on him a little, and that about broke my heart. Barclay is extremely good with emotions in this book, and with constructing challenges that offer no easy solution.
But it slowly became apparent that Glen wasn’t just dealing with three homicides all done by one killer, and was when I started becoming more and more aware that the book was an artificial construction, a puzzle that brought out the mystery lover in me. I got two out of the three right, but one of them was a definite surprise.
This is the first Barclay book I’ve picked up, but it’s definitely not going to be the last.