A TAP ON THE WINDOW by Linwood Barclay
A Tap on the Window by suspense author Linwood Barclay is a long, involving read. The book starts out so simply, a young girl tapping on the car window of a middle-aged man who thinks twice about allowing her inside his car in spite of the rain coming down. Then she tells him she knows his son.
For most people, that admission wouldn’t garner much more generosity. Lots of parents run into kids that know their children. That doesn’t automatically grant them special privileges. But Cal Weaver isn’t a typical parent – he’s a grieving man who hasn’t made his peace with his son’s suicide.
So he’s thinking maybe this girl who knew his son might know something about his son’s death. He lets her in only to have her disappear on him, replaced by another girl who tells him Claire, the first girl, is hiding from someone. That someone is following them in a black pickup. Then the new girl, Hannah, disappears, leaving Cal with a lot of unanswered questions.
The book is a long read, maxing out at 500 pages. On the plus side, Cal Weaver is an engaging character, a man readers can root for, and one that has a darker side that gets discovered along the way. Cal is a man who has also made mistakes, but they were made for reasons that readers will understand.
Barclay also ladles in plenty of clues, a cornucopia of subplots that all eventually tie together, and a grinding, nerve-wracking pace that will keep readers glued to the pages.
As good as the book is, though, I felt like I’d run a marathon by the time I finished it. I was guessing, second-guessing, and putting pieces together every time I flipped a page. The tale reads quickly, but 500 pages is still a lot to digest. There are also a lot of characters that show up along the way and have impact on the main story line, and I had to almost break out a lineup card to know who was who.
There are some things that I feel were left undone at the end of the book, such as the violent police force and how the town felt about them, and – ultimately – what was going to be done about it. The mysteries are all neatly wrapped up, but there are a lot of depressing themes that recur throughout the novel. Barclay has a lot to say about society, teens, and small towns, and those issues blend in nicely with the plot.
This is a solid mystery/suspense tale that will keep readers interested throughout, but make sure you allow time to read it. Putting this one aside for too long is hard to do.