Monday, August 18, 2014

Pierce’s Picks: “No Safe House”

A weekly alert for followers of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction.

No Safe House, by Linwood Barclay (New American Library)

The Gist: “Seven years after barely surviving the terrors of No Time for Goodbye (2007),” explains Publishers Weekly, “the Archer family of Milford, Conn., once again tempts fate in this darkly comic if decidedly creepy thriller … History seems to be repeating itself as mom Cynthia fights to set limits on 14-year-old Grace, who defies her--much as the rebellious 14-year-old Cynthia herself did the night she got drunk with local hood Vince Fleming and her parents and brother disappeared. But Grace’s latest lapse in judgment--agreeing to joyride with pistol-packing bad boy Stuart Koch, whose father assists the now-grown Vince--plunges the entire clan into a deadly perfect storm of greed, violence, dog walkers, and ruthless rival crooks at cross-purposes.” Reviewing the Evidence says this novel plays to the author’s strengths: “Here we are on familiar, if still effective, ground for Barclay. He specializes in mining a suburban angst rooted in the suspicion that the leafy streets and tidy homes sit atop a subterranean fault line that constantly threatens to split wide open and engulf their earnest and respectable citizens in unexpected anarchy. He is particularly good at situating the threat in the teenaged characters, who behave in that familiar and maddening combination of reckless daring and moral superiority most parents of adolescents will recognize instantly. Grace in this case does something thoroughly foolish yet almost sweetly naïve. When she learns what she may be responsible for, she has to be almost physically restrained from rushing off to the authorities to confess, while her exasperated but loving father does what he can to protect her.”

What Else You Should Know: For a piece in The Big Thrill, A.J. Colucci “asked Barclay why he chose to go back to the story after all these years. ‘It was my U.S. publisher, Penguin, that really wanted me to do a sequel, and seven years seemed like the right amount of time. The daughter in the book, Grace, is the same age as her mother Cynthia when the first event happened, and that had some symmetry to it.’ … Barclay enjoyed going back to the original characters and imagining how they developed. ‘When something traumatic happens in the context of a thriller, even when you find out all the answers, you have to wonder--what’s it like for those people afterwards? How does their life change? What does it do to them personally? I knew how it would affect Cynthia and her relationship with her daughter. That’s the stuff I wanted to get into, how she would be so obsessively overprotective. It’s the law of unintended consequences--the more you try to achieve one thing, the more you achieve the opposite. The more Cynthia tries to rein Grace in, the more she fights back. We’ve all been there.’” The Minneapolis Star Tribune adds that “While this is a sequel to No Time for Goodbye, familiarity with that earlier thriller isn’t required to enjoy this look at a family trying to maintain cohesion. What makes the story work is the depth and strength of the Archer family and their love for each other that oozes off the page while bad things continue to happen around them.”

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