Tuesday, December 22, 2009

L is for Linwood Barclay's FEAR THE WORST

Continuing the fun series started by fellow Anzac book blogger Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise, where each week bloggers from around the world write about a notable crime fiction novel or author (first name or surname) starting with a particular letter of the alphabet, this week is the turn of "L".

After a run of Kiwi crime fiction related posts, I thought I'd head back overseas, and revisit a book I reviewed earlier this year; Linwood Barclay's latest, FEAR THE WORST. Barclay is the bestselling Canadian author who I also interviewed earlier this year, for articles in both Australian magazine Good Reading, and the Canvas magazine supplement in the Weekend Herald (New Zealand's highest-circulation newspaper). Barclay came to wider attention when his fifth crime novel, NO TIME FOR GOODBYE, became a massively-popular bestseller in Germany and the UK. It eventually topped the chart as the book with the highest sales in the UK in 2008. He's followed that up by winning the Arthur Ellis Award for best Canadian crime novel for his next standalone, TOO CLOSE TO HOME, and then releasing FEAR THE WORST in the middle part of 2009.
As a reviewer, I quite like Linwood Barclay's story of 'later' success, and how he's 'suddenly' got noticed by the general book-buying public after several well-reviewed, if not wildly-popular, books. It gives me hope for other authors, including some Kiwi crime and thriller writers, who have been putting out great quality stories, without (yet) getting the readership and notice that they deserve.
As well as the author-interview based features, I reviewed FEAR THE WORST for my hometown newspaper, the Nelson Mail. That review is below:

by Linwood Barclay (Orion, 2009)
Former Toronto Star humour columnist Linwood Barclay topped the British fiction charts for 2008 with his gripping "missing family" thriller No Time For Goodbye, and now he's back with another superb page-turner centred on everyday characters thrust into harrowing situations.
With Fear the Worst, Barclay's trademark mix of domesticity and dread is apparent right from the gut-check opening line: "The morning of the day I lost her, my daughter asked me to scramble her some eggs." What starts out as an ordinary day in an increasingly ordinary life for car salesman Tim Blake takes a troubling turn when his daughter Sydney doesn't return home from her summer job at a local motel.

Troubling becomes terrifying when Tim discovers that Sydney never worked at the motel at all. He doesn't need to simply track Sydney down - he needs to find out who his daughter really was and why she was lying to him. Only one thing has him convinced the worst hasn't already happened: the fact that some very scary people seem just as eager as he is to find her, by any means necessary.

Unlike many thriller heroes, middle-aged Tim is a very ordinary man. He's no spy, cop or soldier. Nor does he have the naturally investigative background of a lawyer, writer or other traditional amateur detective stereotype. Instead, he is at that somewhat beaten-down point in his life where his ledger shows more losses than wins - his first marriage disintegrated, his own car dealership went bust, and he struggles to deal with his increasingly rebellious teenage daughter.

It's all of this that helps to make Tim's everyman efforts to find his daughter even more compelling and real. With an engrossing storyline peppered with plot twists and filled with layered and recognisably human characters, Fear the Worst may very well end up being the best thriller released this year.


In hindsight I'd say FEAR THE WORST is 'one of the better out-and-out crime thrillers released this year', having now read several dozen other crime and thriller titles.

Have you read Linwood Barclay? His smash-hit NO TIME FOR GOODBYE or his other titles, such as FEAR THE WORST? What do you think of his writing? Do you like his mix of danger and domesticity? Do you like your heroes the most everyday of the everyday (e.g. used car salesmen, teachers, lawn-mower businesspeople etc)? Or do you prefer spies and other 'professional' heroes? Thoughts and comments welcome.


  1. Thanks for this contribution Craig. I've certainly enjoyed the couple of Linwood Barclay's that I've read - as you say a mixture of danger and domesticity. You can almost imagine the scenario happening to you

  2. I have it on my TBR pile. Will get to it the new year!

    Here is my Crime Fiction Alphabet: L post!

  3. I'm quite chuffed i managed to still do my 'L' post this week - felt for sure I'd miss it since i was travelling...

    NB Barclay is incredibly nice in person too. Great speaker, plenty of low-key and self-deprecating humour.

  4. Thanks for this review, Craig. I'm glad that Barclay is pleasant in person; that's always so nice. Like Kerrie, I've enjoyed the Barclays I've read, so I'm glad that you focused on him.