Tuesday, July 28, 2015

“No Safe House” by Linwood Barclay – Unseen Horrors of Suburbia

No Safe House by Linwood Barclay - book cover
The green lawns, the white picket fences, calm and quiet afternoons... what is there not to feel safe about when living in the American suburbs, where decent, hard-working folk have found peace for generations? After the horrors he and his family faced in the events of No Time for Goodbye, Terry Archer decided to go live in the quaint and safe haven of suburbia, albeit without his wife who decided to go on a self-imposed exile upon seeing that her demons have led her to harming Grace, their daughter.

And now, in No Safe House, Linwood Barclay returns to the fore as things once again begin to escalate in the wrong direction for the Archers. Grace gets mixed up with a bad kid, Stuart, who is part of Vince Fleming's gang (Fleming saved the Archers' lives in the previous book, but remains an unrepentant criminal), but the trouble has only started. One night they decide to break into a house to steal a couple cars, but all hell breaks loose and as Terry later finds out, some suburban houses are used to store stolen and smuggled goods... and there are nasty killers out there, seeking these stashes. Unwittingly, Grace ends up putting her family into the crosshairs of these ruthless killers, and along with Vince Fleming, Terry has to put it all on the line to try and stop them.

To begin with, I don't really like saying that you need to read one book to get another, but in this case I do believe that it will net you a whole lot more enjoyment. The first book makes the characters go through a lot of ordeals and a large amount of development takes place. In other words, reading the first book will make the important characters in this one a whole lot more relatable. On the other hand, if you choose to skip the first book it is true that you'll still be able to understand this one from beginning to end... story-wise, you'll be unaffected. Also, it ought to be mentioned that Barclay takes a fair amount of time to re-establish his characters to make sure that you understand what changes have occurred in their lives. At times, I will admit these passages seemed slow and somewhat unnecessary, but I suppose that someone who knows nothing about those characters would find it more interesting.

So what is there to say about this effort of Barclay's? Well, to begin with there is plenty of action and thrills to go around, there is absolutely no question about that. Things move along rather quickly... for the most part at least, as Barclay seems to have a penchant for suddenly stopping the action at certain points to allow the characters to indulge in their own thoughts. I found that on some occasions the characters demonstrated somewhat narrow views, but to be fair, these passages may be for the purpose of character development rather than conveying the author's point of view.

When it comes to the plot itself, on one hand, it feels a tad ridiculous as there are numerous real-life inconveniences that would be associated with the criminal plan described in this book (using various suburban houses to stash stolen goods). On the other, if you can suspend your disbelief for a bit, you'll find that it actually serves as the perfect vehicle for a solid action thriller, one that even manages to launch a few comments about society here and there, pointing our attention to the evils which lie underneath our idealistic perceptions of those small idyllic communities.

In conclusion, No Safe House is an enjoyable action thriller that doesn't dig too deep nor impress with novelty. Rather, it spins a solid and interesting story within the confines of the genre, that is if you don't mind its slower moments dedicated reflection.

Linwood Barclay (1955)

Linwood Barclay (1955)

Personal site

Known by most people out there as a humorist, Linwood Barclay has had a number of different lines of work in his life, but judging from recent events, it seems he settled on author more than anything else. And that’s a good thing too as he has a real knack for it, giving life to widely-acclaimed novels such as A Tap on the Window and Too Close to Home.

More of the Linwood Barclay's book reviews:
Broken Promise
A Tap on the Window

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