Never Look Away centers on David Harwood, reporter at small town newspaper, husband, and father. He’s working on a story of corruption about the town council members accepting bribes from Elmont Sebastian, the owner of Star Spangled Corrections, a private prison that’s looking to build in town. David is also dealing with the sudden, inexplicable depression of his wife, Jan, who has been taking off from work and hinting at having suicidal thoughts.
Things seem to be getting better with Jan when she orders tickets for the family to go to the local amusement park. Things quickly take a turn for the worse when Ethan is abducted shortly after their arrival, causing David and Jan to separate to try and find him. David finds him after a quick, frantic search, but can’t reach Jan on her cell phone to tell her. He returns to their planned rendezvous point and she never shows up. Park security and the police are soon part of the search for Jan Harwood.
As the search goes on, the park finds no record of Jan Harwood having ever entered the park. And no one but David has noticed her depression. The search for Jan begins to turn into a suspected murder investigation, with David as the sole suspect. Knowing he’s innocent, David starts an investigation of his own, which leads him to question everything he’s ever known – or though he’s known – about his wife.
Thoughts: (Beware of possible spoilers)
-This book reminded me a lot of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Read it. Love it. You’re Welcome.), but less psychotic. So I wasn’t entirely surprised when Jan went missing and David was taking the fall for it. What made it so interesting was seeing how it all played out, all the work that Jan put into it to make sure all roads led to David.
-David Harwood is a smart, likable character. He loves his parents, who live nearby and often help out with Ethan, he loves his wife and is genuinely concerned about her depression, urging her to seek professional help, and he loves his son. He’s a good reporter and doesn’t sell out when he’s given the opportunity. But, he did drive me crazy at times. For a smart guy, he seemed to keep shooting himself in the foot when it came to the investigation. Everything he did made him look more guilty and even though he recognized he shouldn’t say or do certain things, he did them anyways.
-Though it kept the story moving, there were almost too many side plots. The private prison and Elmont Sebastian’s desire to intimidate David into revealing his source for the corruption story, *SPOILER ALERT* the parents of the real Jan Richler, who David’s Jan pushed in front of a moving car as a child, Jan’s trip with her old partner Dwayne to cash in on their diamonds they stole from a man several years earlier, and that man’s plan of revenge to get back at them for cutting off his hand. *END OF SPOILER* Barclay did a good job of connecting all of these sub plots to the main story, but I would’ve liked more time spent with David and less time with everybody else.
–Never Look Away is the first book of Linwood Barclay that I’ve read, but his other books are definitely going on my To Read list. He writes smart, empathetic characters and the story was well paced and contained enough twists to keep me guessing, without ever going overboard or into the completely unbelievable. I give this book 4 stars and would suggest it to lovers of crime/mystery/suspense/thrillers.