Book Review: No Safe House by Linwood Barclay

Reviewed by Dan McClenaghan

In No Safe House (NAL Hardcover, August 5, 2014), from the internationally bestselling author Linwood Barclay, teenaged Grace Archer has hooked up with the wrong boy. She follows him into an uncertain situation, and things go from bad to horrible, pulling her family into a world of big money crime and vicious, coldhearted murder.
Barclay, an American raised in Canada, is one of today's finest thriller writers. In his latest, he has created a layered story with two sets of antagonists, one group only half bad, working the wrong side of the law with a bit of a soft side, a bit of haplessness, like a gang Donald Westlake might have conjured. And another pair, who are deep-down malevolent, vile, like something John D. McDonald might have dreamed up in his early, pre-Travis McGee novels.

No_Safe_House cvrWhat No Safe House’s bad guys want is money—and more—and Grace’s stumble into their mix adds a new dimension to the power struggle between these forces of evil. Grace’s misstep also draws in her parents, Terry and Cynthia. They struggle to extricate her from the deadly mire, with the help of a complex criminal who saved their lives seven years earlier, a story told in Barclay's bestselling No Time For Goodbye (Bantam, September 27, 2007). No Time For Goodbye was Barclay’s first truly successful novel after a stint as a newspaperman and a writer of humorous detective fiction.

Barclay gracefully gives enough backstory for the reader to make sense of what's going down in No Safe House, without giving enough away to ruin any subsequent reading of its precursor.

Despite the labyrinthine nature of the tale—a story told from multiple points of view, with brief episodes that at first seem without context—Barclay is here, and in his previous thrillers, a top-notch writer of the “page turner.” His use of dialogue to advance the story is as deft as Elmore Leonard's, and every scene draws you deeper into the world of the Archers—average Joes and Janes, who've stepped onto a slick and slimy slope, and slide in, deeply over their heads, to a murky world of ruthlessness, avarice and evil.

Enjoy the thrill of No Safe House. Then consider going back for more, with No Time For Goodbye.