NO SAFE HOUSE by Linwood Barclay (Doubleday), 453 pages, $22.95 paper. Rating: NN
Linwood Barclay's new thriller, No Safe House, has lots going on action-wise, but not so much when it comes to the other part of the formula: characterization.
His hero of choice is your average suburban dad, in this case high school teacher Terry - the kind of guy who pays his parking tickets on time and puts the safety of his family front and centre.
It's a follow-up to Barclay's last mystery, in which Terry and his family suffered a horrific ordeal that has bound them to a gangster operating in the nondescript American town where they live. Terry's wife has a seriously bad case of PTSD, and his teenage daughter is acting out. When the bad boy she's been hanging out with goes missing, leaving a trail of blood, she's implicated big time.
It's a good enough story, trotting along at a respectable pace, with a nice twist that balances the otherwise predicable ending. But the characters are either uninteresting (Terry) or clichéd, like the gangster dying of cancer who wants to make things right with his stepdaughter. And to add insult to injury, there's a body dump at, yes, a pig farm.
Like Barclay's previous books - there's one about a dominatrix working out of a split-level - No Safe House goes into the shadowy world that lies beneath the idyllic surface of the suburban dream. It also attempts to show just how far a father will go to save his family. Sadly, it comes across more as parody than reality. The prose is far from deathless, and coincidences rack up faster than you can say "barbecue."
Despite the car culture that acts as one of the book's themes, this is a decidedly pedestrian read.