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    Review of BAD MOVE by Linwood Barclay


    Bantam, June 2004

    Moving from the city to the suburbs should have been great. Science Fiction author Zack Walker doesn't have to worry about his children stumbling over the disposable needles he'd found outside their urban home and his wife gets a first floor laundry room. Sure there aren't the great delis, but that is a small sacrifice, isn't it. Although the suburbs are supposed to be safer, Zack doesn't let up on his perpetual quest to teach his children, and wife, to be more careful. When his wife leaves her keys in the door, he hides her car so it looks like it was stolen. When his children leave their backpacks at the top of the stairs, he pretends to have tripped and broken his neck. These 'lessons' result in him being labeled a 'jerk,' but he can't help himself. And when he sees that purse in the shopping cart, unattended, he has to teach one more lesson.

    Author Linwood Barclay does an excellent job planting clues for eventual payoff. Watch the little anecdotes carefully because they just might turn up again--in a much more important context. I thought Barclay's writing started a bit slowly, with excessive introspection, but once he gets going (around the end of the first chapter), the story and characters drew me in.

    The story would have been stronger if Zack's actions had been better motivated--especially his reaction to the misguided lesson with the purse. Surely the path he selected would have been among the least likely of actual choices. And the final wrap-up, while adding a nice mystery twist, seemed a bit too cute to me.

    Still, BAD MOVE is Barclay's first novel. The enjoyable writing and clever use of clues, plants, and payoffs make him a promising author to watch.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 9/11/04

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