Review: Never Look Away by Linwood Barclay

David Harwood is a journalist for a small paper in upper New York State and is working hard on a story about corrupt local government officials taking bribes to approve the establishment of a privately run prison in the area. On top of this pressure, for several weeks his wife Jan has been exhibiting signs of depression, to the point even of reporting suicidal thoughts to her husband and he is very concerned. In an attempt to lighten the family’s mood the couple take their four year old son Ethan to a local amusement park for the day which is when their lives fall apart.

Never Look Away incorporates a compelling mix of nail-biting tension and normal people behaving credibly despite extraordinary situations. David Harwood is a great character for a thriller, being the sort of person with whom we can all identify. I really liked the fact he didn’t suddenly develop any inexplicable superhuman skills (which tends to happen in thrillers) but stumbled his way through a series of pretty astonishing events in a very believable way. His reaction as he learned that people around him might have lied was particularly credible in the way it showed his willingness to entertain the most bizarre theories rather than the notion he had been deceived. His parents are also wonderfully normal characters and even his wife Jan, though a less orthodox character, has a credibility about her.

I read this book because Maxine at Petrona told me to it and while it didn’t make me miss my bus stop as she suggested that’s only because I walk to work. On two successive mornings I walked an extra long way around to get to my office just to hear a little more. Funnily enough the big plot twists were telegraphed but I didn’t find that detracted from the story terribly much as I was more interested in how the various players would cope with unfolding events than the play-by-play, though the strait narrative was very sold too.

I like thrillers that have an air of normality about them and don’t go too over the top with explosions and other silliness and Never Look Away fits that bill well. At its heart it’s a story of a family where all is not what it seems and plays on the sorts of fears that all of us might face at some time. Top thrills indeed.

What about the audio book?

To be perfectly honest it took me a little while to ‘get into’ Jeffrey Cummings’ narration as he used a wide variety of voices and some of the ones for minor characters were a little odd-sounding. However after the first 20-30 minutes I was totally absorbed and Cummings had made the book whatever the audio equivalent is of a page turner.

Never Look Away has also been reviewed at Crime Watch and Petrona

I’ve also read Linwood Barclay’s No Time for Goodbye (which was terrific) and Too Close to Home (which I didn’t enjoy quite as much)

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

My rating 4/5
Narrator Jeffrey Cummings
Publisher Orion Publishing [2010]
ISBN N/A (downloaded from audible.com)
Length 12 hours 42 minutes
Format audio (mp3)
Source I bought it

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9 Responses to Review: Never Look Away by Linwood Barclay

  1. Bernadette – Thanks for this excellent review. OK, you’ve convinced me (as if Maxine hadn’t!) to read this one. It was on my TBR anyway, and I’m going to have to move it up. And I agree with you, by the way: thrillers are best when they’re about normal people behaving in credible ways in extraordinary situations.

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  2. kathy durkin says:

    Yes. Agree on all points. I enjoyed this book, as I do with all of Linwood Barclay’s books, but this was a good one even among those. I like thrillers about normal people who do normal things and don’t become superhuman (as you said), or where the protagonist flies off to Istanbul or Paris to find the culprits and runs up against a dead end. (I worry about the plane fare.) or where he/she gets weapons galore and suddenly knows how to use them or perform karate as a black belt, or a friend visits who just happens to be a martial arts expert or former army Special Ops.
    This one was interesting and the characters normal, in a situation that could happen.

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  3. Dorte H says:

    Nope.

    Closing my eyes.

    I don´t need any more temptations this week.

    Besides, I am very busy plotting some crimes of my own.

    I´ll be back when I can afford it.

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  4. Maxine says:

    I think you’ve hit on exactly the appeal of this book, Bernadette – the “normal man” and the fact that although the plot developments are obvious/telegraphed, somehow the author makes them fresh and a bit twisty……Great review, as always, and thanks so much for the mention.

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  5. JoV says:

    Wow another Linwood Barclay’s new book. He publish faster than I could read his books! Glad to see you like this, make me want to read all his books. Great review.

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