Book Review: A Tap At The Window by Linwood Barclay

Not long after his only son, Scott, died after falling off a roof whilst on drugs, Cal Weaver is driving around at night and is enticed into picking up a young, female hitchhiker when she says she knew his son. When they stop at a restaurant for her to use the bathroom and another girl gets back into the car disguised as the first, Cal gets caught up in an unpredictable affair filled with lies, confusion and murder.

9781409115052As with any good crime thriller, we dive in at the deep end with Cal as he sees the hitchhiker straight away, after just one introductory page of an unexplained incident featuring no names but one person seriously threatening another; we have to wait a while to find out what this is about, a tool that is used again in later italicised chapters showing a mother, her son and an incapacitated man. So many questions, so little explanation.

But if you wait then the bombshells keep coming and they are as shocking and unpredictable as a reader could hope for. The story revolves around the residents of a small town near Niagra Falls, Griffon, and it quickly becomes clear how stories can spread and families closed off from others around them.

The conflict between the Cal’s brother-in-law, police Chief Augie, and the mayor and father of the hitchhiker, Bert Sanders, is a driving force of the book, in many ways that we don’t even know of for a long time; however, we are always aware of how it underlies the tension in the town.

In many ways, A Tap At The Window is a very modern thriller, as Cal often whips out his smartphone and checks Safari, something that is only a recent tool for private detectives like him, but in other ways Griffon feels totally backwards. The town has resisted the arrival of Burger King, invests its trust into police officers who deal with suspects by roughing them up by the water tower, and lets underage drinkers into the bar so that they’re not drinking on the streets. This is poignant of a small town feel, as things can go wrong that may not in a bigger place, as everyone’s business gets mixed up. With affairs, drug dealers and ex-boyfriends all getting embroiled, it was only a matter of time before something blew up.

Despite the presence of all these solid components and an intriguing storyline throughout, it is the final third of the book that really pulls you in. Somewhat impressively for this popular genre, there are very few clichés (and no unforgivable ones) and, essentially, there are so many curveballs that it is very tough to see what’s coming before the revelation is put before you. If you don’t have time to read this final chunk of the book in one go, then make time. It will be worth it.

4 of 5 stars

UK Release Date: 10 October 2013


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