About a year ago, one of my customers at the bookstore introduced me to the works of Linwood Barclay. I read his novel No Time For Goodbye and was impressed with his level of characterization and ability to create an engaging mystery. With his latest release, The Accident, Barclay not only provides another mystery and another set of rich characters, he also manages to use the current financial climate as a distinct setting.
Most of the story focuses around Glen Garber a Connecticut contractor whose wife dies in a drunk driving accident in the book’s opening chapter. What makes this story different immediately is that it’s Sheila, Glen’s wife who is the drunk driver, even though she didn’t have a history heavy drinking. The incident leaves their daughter, Kelly with only one friend at school, but an unfortunate game of hide and seek leads to a string of conspiracies involving police, electricians, knockoff purses, and prescription drugs. After all, in a bad economy, middle-class people will start doing unusual things to pay the bills.
Probably the most unusual element of The Accident is the use of two different points of view: first person for most of the chapters (narrated by Glen) and a sparingly omniscient third person. Barclay does this to show us the villains, the other people Glen interacts with, and little Kelly Garber. Luckily, Barclay has great command of character voice, giving him the ability to rely on dialogue the carry the mystery and the story. He can give little insights with the smallest details, splitting fifty words between two chapters, just to create an emotional response.
Barclay’s approach works. He has an atypical way of going about things, but Barclay can create a tense, engaging thriller using normal people in tragic, everyday situations. If you haven’t read one of his books before, you should check them out. They’re quite good and worth the effort.