A TAP ON THE WINDOW
Author: Linwood Barclay
Orion Fiction RRP $29.99
Review: Monique Mulligan
Suspense thriller A Tap on the Window wastes no time hooking readers in. The action starts immediately – no prologues, no back story, just a tap on the window followed by a split-second decision … and it goes from there. The cover’s great – a fuzzy figure behind a rain-fogged window; visually, it draws readers in, making them wonder just who is on the other side of the glass. And why? Author Linwood Barclay is another new author to me; his sparse writing style keeps the pace fast and the suspense ongoing, giving the sense that there’s no time for talking, just for action.
‘Hey, aren’t you Scott’s dad?’
When Cal Weaver stops at red light on a rainy night while driving home, he’s tempted to ignore the bedraggled-looking teenaged girl tapping on his window and trying to hitch a lift. But when she recognises him, he can’t ignore her. She knows his son … or rather, she knew his son. Logically he knows that giving a ride to a teenage girl might not be the smartest move, but since Claire was a friend of Scott’s, how much harm could it do? Maybe Claire will be able to help him understand his son more or help him answer some questions that have been burning him up. It’s only after stopping at a restroom that he gets a hint of trouble. The girl who got back in his car is not Claire.
The next morning Cal starts to worry. After confronting the girl, she refused to answer his questions and made him pull over, then jumped out and ran away. Why? What were Claire and the other girl up to? Why did they swap places in the restroom? Who was following them? And what, if anything, do they know about Scott’s death? That’s when the police cruiser turns up at his door and asks him if he gave a lift to a girl the previous night. A girl who has now been found brutally murdered. Cal needs to find out what’s going on so he can clear his name, but doing so reveals a town built on corruption, conspiracy, secrets and lies. Finding someone he can trust is not going to be easy, because even the police don’t seem to be playing according to the rules. The situation is complicated by his broken-down relationship – he and his wife have been torn apart from grief and need to pull together if they’re going to make it, but first Cal has to clear his name.
Good characterisation and a well-developed plot made A Tap on the Window a riveting book. There’s a sense of detachment throughout the book, which is particularly evident with the characterisation of Cal. It’s as if emotion is set aside and Cal is on auto-pilot, initially determined to find out what happened to his son, but then re-focused on the new events; he and his wife are just going through the motions. However, while the detached feeling could have disconnected me from the book, I felt that it reflected Cal’s coping mechanism well. And then there’s a crucial scene, near the end, in which probably the most emotive paragraph of the book appears. It left me reeling. The event, which I won’t give away, yes. But, the raw emotion that seeped from that page felt real. At that point, Cal’s defences shut down. So well done. Even as I read that part, I thought no, it can’t be true. It was. And it meant that I cared.
The tangled threads of the story tied together well, resulting in a strongly written suspense that had me wanting more from this author. A killer read with themes that strike at the heart of anyone hoping their teenage kids are OK – if you love thrillers, don’t miss this one.
Available from good bookstores and Hachette Australia. This copy was courtesy of Hachette.
Bookish treat: Why did the word donut just pop into my head? Is it the cops and donuts thing? I have no idea, but now I want a donut.