There are several nightmares shared by parents, principally involving the disappearance of their children. It is, of course, the job of novelists who deal in suspense to utilise these fears, and that is precisely what Linwood Barclay does in Never Look Away, which is typically mesmerising fare from a writer who knows how to play readers like a musician plays an instrument. In the new book, journalist David Harwood takes his wife and baby son out for the day to a New York amusement park, but while he is buying ice cream, his wife runs to him in a panic and tells him that their child, Ethan, has disappeared. The distressed couple separates to look for their son. When Harwood gives chase to a man with a pushchair, he finds his son unharmed. But to his horror, he discovers that his wife has now disappeared. Harwood is deeply worried, for a variety of reasons -- his wife has been suffering from depression, and his fear is that she has taken some ill-advised -- and irrevocable -- action. But on investigation, it is discovered that surveillance cameras give no indication that she was ever in the rollercoaster park with her husband.
To some degree, the best crime novelists (and Linwood Barclay is certainly among their number) are well aware that most of the classic plots have been utilised again and again. Certainly, the sudden disappearance of a loved one, and a search for them in the face of suspicion and distrust (usually based on the fact that proof cannot be produced that the missing person was ever in a given place) is a particularly familiar plot; anyone who has seen the film (directed by Terence Fisher) So Long at the Fair will be familiar with it. But the real question is whether or not something fresh and dynamic can be done with such material, and Barclay admirers will not be surprised to learn that is precisely what he's done here. There are other elements involved (including a businessman working in private prisons who has been bribing local officials, as well as the fact that one of Harwood's wife’s colleagues at work has also vanished), and it is this juggling of a variety of elements that makes Never Look Away such a compelling experience. --Barry Forshaw
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