My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Opening with a scene ripped from most parents’ worst nightmares, Linwood Barclay’s “Never Look Away” morphs into something more chilling, disturbing and unexpected. Local reporter David Harwood and his wife Jan have taken their four-year-old son for a day at the local theme park. David and Jan’s marriage has been up and down the past few months and David is secretly relieved when Jan suggests a family outing. But the day out becomes a nightmare when the stroller with their son vanishes. David finds the son but now his wife has vanished without a trace and all the clues point to David being the prime suspect in her disappearance.
For the first half of the “Never Look Away” Barcley amps up the suspense, putting in place a lot of varying bombshells and red herrings for the novel’s stretch run. David is pursing a story about the new privately owned prison that is scheduled to be built in his town and the behind-the-scenes perks for local officials that may be buying their vote. This subplot looks at the nature of reporting today and is fascinating enough even if it eventually doesn’t lead anywhere of major impact to the story.
We also find out that Jan isn’t all she claims to be and watching this plotline. Jan’s story goes from, at first an interesting one to slowly descending into cliches. It may not help that a current plotline on the hit TV show “24” mirrors what the backstory for Jan.
“Never Look Away” begins with a four-year-old’s fear of rollercoasters and then quickly becomes a literary one. The twists, turns and drops the story goes through will keep you on board, though as the ride comes to an end you may be a bit let down by the overall experience. It’s a popcorn thriller of a book.