Wednesday, June 6, 2012

15. The Accident by Barclay Linwood

It’s the new normal at the Garber household in Connecticut: Glen, a contractor, has seen his business shaken by the housing crisis, and now his wife, Sheila, is taking a business course at night to increase her chances of landing a good-paying job.
But she should have been home by now.
Waiting for Sheila’s return, with their eight-year-old daughter sleeping soundly, Glen soon finds his worst fears confirmed: Sheila and two others have been killed in a car accident. Adding to the tragedy, the police claim Sheila was responsible.
Glen knows it’s impossible; he knew his wife and she would never do such a thing. When he investigates, Glen begins to uncover layers of lawlessness beneath the placid surface of their suburb, secret after dangerous secret behind the closed doors.
Propelled into a vortex of corruption and illegal activity, pursued by mysterious killers, and confronted by threats from neighbors he thought he knew, Glen must take his own desperate measures and go to terrifying new places in himself to avenge his wife and protect his child.
Even now I can't decide if I like this novel or not.  It definitely had a lot of potential, but I think the neat ending on all fronts took away from the appeal overall.  I read somewhere that this was like an episode of Desperate Housewives in regards to all the dealings between the neighbours.  It was that tone in the book that felt "off" to me especially given the exciting prologue and the first page where I was initially hooked with Glen saying, "If I'd known this was our last morning, I'd have rolled over in bed and held her. But of course, if it had been possible to know something like that--if I could have somehow seen into the future--I wouldn't have let go. And then things would have been different." (The Accident by Linwood Barclay)

The character that I found the most compelling was that of Sheila. Glen's character seemed a bit flat to me and really only seemed to have "life" when he was remembering conversations with his wife. Glen's character, to  me, seemed to be barely more than a vehicle to for the reader to follow and discover the story.  It was his memory of his late wife, his perceptions of the woman she was, her attitude towards others and her ability to cut to the chase, often with a wry humour that actually compelled me through the story.  Without her presence, I'm not sure that I would have really cared what happened to the other characters, even Kelly.  I wanted her to be an innocent party in the accident and I wanted to know that Glen's perception of her before the crash was accurate. With every discovery of her secret life, I hoped that she was ignorant of what was really going on. I rally enjoyed reading about their relationship and appreciated that it was not divulged all at once in some long narrative, but rather parcelled out in bits throughout the novel almost as though that was as much as Glen could bear to share about her at a time.

I still had some problems with how Sheila was written though.  If I recall correctly, she had studied some law and was presented as an intelligent, honest woman. While Glen seemed to think his wife was innocent  though misguided, I can't help but feel that she was much more aware of what she was doing.  I find it hard to believe that a relatively intelligent woman would not have seriously questioned the quality and liability risks of selling prescription medications out the back door before getting involved.  Had she started with selling purses or some other knock-off I would have found it more believable.  I also have to wonder if the story would have seemed more believable if she had, in fact, made a terrible decision and been responsible for the accident. At the end, all the plot points were wrapped up a little to neatly for me to really buy into it.

I didn't like how Sally ended up in the last chapters.  I felt the change from the sweet, helpful, almost family version to the heartless killer she was revealed as was not bridged well.  Even if her absence at Sheila's funeral had been played up a bit there may have been a hint of the difference in those personalities.  As it was written, I felt it came suddenly out of left field. I would have found it more believable if she had killed Theo in self defence or was truly distraught over the death of her father.

I did like the character of Fiona.  Straight shooting and unapologetic, I immediately wondered what had happened in her life to make her act that way.  She couldn't be all bad if she adored her granddaughter as she did. The tiny hope of redemption for the villains in the family is always fun in a book.   Her character was a nice contrast to Glen's and while her behaviour was often abhorrent, it had a strength and decisiveness I found lacking elsewhere in the book.

 I enjoyed the novel while I was reading it but found, when finished, I was rather unsatisfied with the episodic TV ending --everything wrapped up too nice and neat and explained.

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