Written by Linwood Barclay — My introduction to the work of top-selling author Linwood Barclay is a slim volume, which I found somewhat off-putting, being one of those make ’em thick, read ’em quick kind of girls. But I hadn’t reckoned on Barclay’s consummate skill as a writer. Yes, I wanted the book to last longer – but only because I enjoyed it so much.
Never Saw It Coming is well titled, because almost every one of its 34 chapters ends with a cunning twist that leaves the reader open mouthed. It’s set in the North East United States, and our central character is Keisha Ceylon, a self-styled medium who makes ends meet by offering her beyond the grave communication service to families desperate to find a missing loved one. In the past she has come perilously close to being denounced as a fraud, but when she uses her visions to successfully find a runaway teenager, you being to wonder if Keisha has a talent after all. Hence the first twist, which I won’t share and spoil the story.
Meanwhile, the TV news is full of stories about a woman who went out shopping, never to return, and Keisha sees her chance when the woman’s husband and pregnant daughter make an impassioned plea for information. She visits the man at home and pitches her story in the hope of a payoff, unaware that he is hiding something. The problem is, this time her visions are too close to the truth for comfort. Readers already know the woman is dead in her car under the frozen ice of a local lake, but Keisha’s vague descriptions of the victim being cold – it is winter, so not much of a stretch there – and her car not being on the road give her would-be mark pause. What the medium doesn’t predict is her own future – and believe me, she is anything but secure in it.
I’m loathe to give too much away here and spoil your reading pleasure, but suffice it to say that this is a book that grabs you and holds you tight to the very final sentence. Keisha is a well-rounded character, a lone Mum with a lovely son and a waste-of-time boyfriend, she has some imaginative ways of keeping the wolf from the door.
Linwood Barclay may be a new name to me, but obviously not to an awful lot of other people. No Time For Goodbye, his first UK-published book, was the best selling paperback novel of 2008 and was chosen as the winner of Richard & Judy’s Summer Reads, and their fastest-ever selling title to boot. It’s obviously one for me to catch up on, as I really like this author’s style. His writing is down to earth and utterly believable, with tight plotting and fast-moving action which pulls you up short at every end and turn.
My love of long form still cries out for more, but I can also appreciate why this book was written to novella length – any longer and it probably would have lost the helter skelter momentum of the neatly conceived narrative.
So all I can do is add Linwood Barclay to my growing list of authors of choice, and make a note to catch up with his six other books at the first opportunity. Meanwhile, I recommend Never Saw It Coming – but be ready to expect the unexpected. You have been warned!
CFL Rating: 5 Stars