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Average: 3 (1 vote)

2labz's picture
Written on Sunday, February 26, 2017
Pros: moderately interesting, moderately thrilling
Cons: predictable, stereotyical kids

Twenty-five years ago, 14-year-old Cynthia Bigge awoke to a vacant house: Mom missing; Dad gone; brother disappeared – no notes, no blood, no nothing: no sign whatsoever of her missing family members. Days stretched into weeks, weeks into months, months into years, years into decades… A quarter of a century of not knowing whether they were alive or dead took its toll on young Cynthia, especially since the last thing she said to her parents was a typical teenage girl screaming fit, “I wish you were dead!” Imagine waking up alone the next morning after that little episode: could you possibly avoid thinking your wish had come true?

On the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Bigges’ disappearance, a tabloid television show invited Cynthia Bigge Archer – now a happily (relatively speaking) married mother of an 8-year-old – to perform a video re-enactment of the day her family disappeared for a “remember when?” segment; followed, of course, by the usual plea for viewers who’ve seen the missing Bigges. The usual suspects called in their tips: a fake psychic who wanted a healthy fee, an alien abductee who’d shared a space shuttle with Mom, a couple of other loonies; but nothing concrete came of it and, after a few weeks, all was forgotten again. And then Cynthia received a strange phone call, and there was a weird break-in, and a brown car began showing up on their street a little too often for comfort. And Cynthia was suddenly convinced that her family members were still alive out there; so she and husband Terry hired a private detective.That’s when things started getting scary…

The fourth novel from the pen of Toronto newsman Linwood Barclay, No Time for Goodbye valiantly strives to place “Mr. and Mrs. Everyman” and daughter Grace square in the peril a reader automatically assumes is headed their way. In that effort, it generally succeeds and is even relatively interesting. A plot that starts out as a mystery segues into a thriller (albeit just mildly thrilling), and then segues back into a mystery after the abrupt conclusion to the thriller.

Unfortunately, the plot’s both derivative and predictable. The huge climactic moment is about as surprising as another Serena Williams grand slam victory, and the big “surprise” behind the Bigge family’s mysterious disappearance turns out to be disappointingly dull. A subsidiary plot that adds a touch of murder mystery to the thriller is spoiled by Barclay’s insistent hinting about a critical clue. Above all, the various characters’ motivations for both the events of 25 years ago and of today are murky and not readily believable. Some are worse than “not readily believable” – they’re downright unbelievable.

On the characters front, Barclay does somewhat better, including the character of 8-year-old Grace and her nightly telescope search for asteroids on a collision course with Connecticut. She is, unfortunately, pretty much a pastiche of every precocious 8-year-old ever to grace a television sitcom… the adults are generally more simplistic than the children, especially Terry Archer’s stereotypic troubled teen/budding genius. Perhaps the most real-sounding scenes revolve around Archer’s classroom and his students – they’re definitely more real than the story that unfolds as the disappearance is “solved.”

All in all, No Time for Goodbye turns out to be moderately interesting and moderately thrilling, but nothing worth going out of one’s way for. Moderately recommended, I suppose… 

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2labz recommends No Time For Goodbye. Linwood Barclay

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Category: Books
Author: Linwood Barclay
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
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