Tim Blake’s a divorced car salesman, whose ex-wife has remarried Bob, who also works in the car industry, and who is far more successful than Tim. This is a touchy subject for Tim, as his marriage broke up largely due to his lack of ambition. His daughter Sydney lives with her mother, Suzanne, and Bob, but is staying with Tim over the summer and working in the nearby Just Inn Time hotel.
One day, she doesn’t come home after work. At first Tim thinks it’s because of the row they had that morning, but when she doesn’t return home the next day, he suspects something is wrong. When he goes to her workplace, every member of staff he talks to tells him they’ve never heard of her, they don’t recognise her photo, they’ve not heard of a Sydney working there. Tim talks to her closest friends, but they’re not much help.
As more and more sinister events take place which appear to implicate Tim, the police seem more interested in investigating him than in searching for Sydney, so it is left to Tim to look for her alone. His job is on the line, and soon so is his freedom and even his life as it becomes clear someone doesn’t approve of his investigation, and he is led on wild goose chases, set up and threatened before he finally uncovers the shocking truth.
He suspects anyone and almost everyone, which leads to an amusing sub-plot. One scene is written with such sensitivity that you cringe rather than laugh at the absurdity of it. There is a strong cast of characters – Tim himself, then there’s the slightly dodgy and cartoonish Bob (who we actually change our view of before the end), and the slightly brittle and clueless Laura, Tim’s boss, who has the irritating habit of saying “at the end of the day” ad infitum. There’s Kate, the neurotic, unhinged on/off girlfriend of Tim’s whose refusal to accept he doesn’t want to see her has significant consequences. Then there’s Sydney’s best friend Patti, who seems to want to step into Sydney’s shoes and spend as much time as she can with Tim in his house, and Veronica, the femme fatale manager of Just Inn Time who seems a little bit too keen on Tim.
As with Barclay’s previous books, the novel explores several themes and one of the most touching for me was the relationship between Tim and Suzanne, who clearly still care deeply for each other. There is also a lovely moment of realisation where Tim sees how things are maybe not as he thought, but I won’t say any more as I don’t want to give anything away.
For me, the main theme of the book boils down to the significance of seemingly trivial choices relating to decisions made years ago as well as more recent ones, and the impact those choices can have on your world today. It’s a great premise and added to my enjoyment of the book immensely. Throw in a scene of incredibly fast driving and another of a very violent (but thrilling) showdown in a car salesroom, and it really is a blinding read!
I really want Linwood Barclay to write a series a la Karin Slaughter, Mark Billingham, Michael Connelly et al because I always end his books wanting to meet the characters again! I would recommend this and his previous books, No Time For Goodbye and Too Close To Home, to anyone wanting an exciting read you won’t want to put down.