Title: Too Close to Home
Author: Linwood Barclay
Publisher: Orion Books 
Length: 466 pages
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My rating: 2.5/5
One-liner: A bit superficial and predictable for me but those who like plot twists and turns should enjoy it.
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Teenager Derek Cutter has a plan. He’ll hide in his next door neighbour and best friend Adam Langley’s house when Adam and his parents go on holidays. Then Derek will have a venue for hooking up with his girlfriend Penny. Things go awry when the Langley family returns home only an hour after leaving but while Derek is trying to work out how to sneak out without being discovered the entire Langley family is killed by intruders. The next morning Derek’s parents, Jim and Ellen, are shocked to learn of their neighbours’ fate and Derek says nothing about what he saw or heard the previous night. However, Jim Cutter learns some things that make him wonder if the Langley family were killed mistakenly.
I read, and thoroughly enjoyed, Barclay’s No Time for Goodbye earlier this year and what grabbed me most were the thoughtful depictions of a couple’s individual and joint struggles in a time of crisis for their family. In Too Close to Home the characters were not nearly as engaging. Jim Cutter, whose point of view occupies most of the book, is superficial and he didn’t seem to react authentically to much of what was going on in his life. His response to people he didn’t like (punching them) was juvenile and became dull (he did it four times that I can recall) and overall I was bored by him. I never bought Ellen’s character at all but I can’t really say why without giving away spoilers but I think she waited far too long in terms of the internal logic of the story to share her secret with her husband. The only person who I really thought was depicted well was their teenage son Derek but he wasn’t enough of a pivotal role to hold the book together for me.
I also struggled to maintain interest in the plot. It seemed to take forever to get going and, aside from a few minor surprises, was quite predictable. The killer was obvious to me at the moment of their introduction and, even though it had three twists too many, the end of the convoluted plagiarism thread was easy to forecast. There seemed to me to be too many ideas jammed into this one story and so nothing really got explored terribly deeply and the fact that one thread was a very (very) long and obvious red herring didn’t really work.
The book is not terrible. But, as is the way of things, if something grabs my heart in some way I forgive its flaws and when something doesn’t grab me I do admit to becoming overly picky. For tangible and intangible reasons this book just didn’t grab me and so I’ve undoubtedly gotten hot under the collar about things that don’t really matter. However if you haven’t tried Linwood Barclay yet I’d recommend No Time For Goodbye.
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