Bad Move

Linwood Barclay

In the too-quiet town of Oakwood, only the lucky die of boredom…and new homeowner Zack Walker isn’t feeling lucky.

 

Whoever said the burbs were boring will think twice after reading Linwood Barclay’s hilarious debut mystery, in which Dad learns the hard way that he doesn’t always know best.

 

 

During his visit to the office, Walker witnesses a quarrel between a Valley Forest sales executive and Samuel Spender, the leader of an environmental group opposed to any further development in the area.Later that day, he discovers Spender’s body in a local creek. Walker calls the police, and he’s soon interviewed about his discovery. He thinks that’s more or less the end of his involvement but that’s not to be so.

Not long after his grisly discovery, Walker and his wife are doing some shopping when he happens to spy a purse left in a shopping cart. Thinking it belongs to his wife, he’s intending to give it back to her and takes it. It’s only later that he realises that it doesn’t belong to Sarah at all. Then Walker finds that the owner is Stefanie Knight, who works at the sales office of Valley Forest Estates. Walker tries to return it, but that only gets him more deeply involved in what’s going on in this quiet suburb when he finds that Knight has been murdered. And then he discovers the huge wad of cash that was also in the purse.Before Walker knows it, he’s been targeted by some very nasty people. He manages to put the pieces together and find out how the two dead bodies and the money are related, but not before he runs the real risk of being the next victim.

One of the important elements in this novel is irony, both humourous and sometimes a little bitter. For example, Walker and his family move into the suburbs because he’s very concerned about everyone’s safety. And yet, ironically, the Walker family ends up in much more danger after they move than they ever faced while living in the city. Walker wants to avoid dangerous situations and ironically, he finds Spender’s and Knight’s bodies and his very attempts to stay out of the dangerous situations he finds himself in only bring more danger.

There’s another level of irony, too. Walker soon gets to know his new neighbours in suburbia and finds out things about two of them that make him wonder whether he can really trust them. I can’t say more about this aspect without giving away spoilers, but suffice it to say that they are multi-dimensional. And yet ironically, it’s those very people of whom Walker is suspicious who help him and his family when they need it the most.

There’s also an element of the absurd in this novel, both in its more traditional sense and in its other sense of ridiculously humourous.

The mystery itself is believable, with credible motives for murder, and there’s a very, very neat twist at the end of it. A sometimes darkly-humourous “suburban murder” story with more than a touch of irony and absurdity, Bad Move also contains some interesting characters whom we can care about once we know them. 

Review by Margot Kinberg, Confessions of a Mystery Novelist

About Linwood Barclay:

Aged 16, Linwood Barclay got his first newspaper job at the Peterborough Examiner, a small Ontario daily. In 1981, he joined the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest circulation newspaper.

He held such positions as assistant city editor, chief copy editor, news editor, and Life section editor, before becoming the paper’s humour columnist in 1993. He was one of the paper’s most popular columnists before retiring from the position in 2008 to work exclusively on books.

His first standalone thriller, No Time for Goodbye, was published in 2007 to critical acclaim and great international success. It has been sold around the world and is being translated into nearly two dozen languages. In Germany alone it has sold half a million copies.Linwood, who obtained an Honours B.A. in English at Trent University, in Peterborough, Ontario, was fortunate to have some very fine mentors; in particular, the celebrated Canadian author Margaret Laurence, whom Linwood first met when she served as writer-in-residence at Trent, and Kenneth Millar, who, under the name Ross Macdonald, wrote the acclaimed series of mystery novels featuring detective Lew Archer.

It was at Trent that he met the woman who would become his wife.

The real action in Bad Move begins just after science-fiction novelist Zack Walker and his journalist wife Sarah move with their children Angie and Paul to a beautiful housing development called Valley Forest Estates. Walker’s always been concerned about safety, and that’s the main reason he was so eager for the move. It doesn’t hurt that the lower cost of living in the suburbs means he can write full-time. Things don’t go too badly at first, but then, little by little, the peace and quiet that the Walker family thought they’d bought is eroded. It starts with some persistent problems with the house; there are leaks and other home repair problems, and Walker can’t seem to get anyone in the housing development’s sales office to do much about it. In fact, he goes to the office one day to complain and that’s when the real trouble begins.