Saturday, August 15, 2009


FEAR THE WORST by Linwood Barclay (Orion, 2009)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Former Toronto Star humour columnist Linwood Barclay topped the UK fiction charts overall 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 Sydney never worked at the motel at all. Now Tim 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.

And it’s all of this that helps make Tim’s everyman efforts to find his daughter even more compelling and real. 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.

This review was originally published in the print and online versions of the Nelson Mail newspaper in New Zealand, in August 2009. It has been republished here now that the Nelson Mail online version has been removed.  

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