Those familiar with Linwood Barclay’s previous novels, take note: NO TIME FOR GOODBYE is quite a different work for him. There is not a trace of good old Zack Walker here, though protagonist Terry Archer, a high school English teacher, could be decent buds with him should their paths ever cross. While the Walker books --- BAD MOVE, BAD GUYS, LONE WOLF and STONE RAIN --- were suburban caper novels, occasionally bordering on the comedic, NO TIME FOR GOODBYE is the stuff of nightmarish mystery.
Terry Archer is married to Cynthia Bigge, a woman with a past. Cynthia was a semi-rebellious 14-year-old when her family vanished overnight from their suburban Connecticut home. She had it better than most would have in such circumstances, being taken in and raised by a loving aunt and later meeting and marrying Terry, a supporting husband who truly loves her even as he is occasionally plagued by her understandable overprotectiveness of their daughter and his fleeting self-doubt over Cynthia’s story.
Things come to a head, however, when a television news magazine does a feature on the mysterious, long-ago disappearance of Cynthia’s family. Cynthia suddenly feels as if she is being followed; she sees a man at a shopping mall who, she is certain, is a grownup version of her missing brother; and her father’s trademark fedora is found resting on their kitchen table. Terry is not completely sure that his wife isn’t perhaps making some of it up, as a secondary symptom of some serious emotional problems. His love for her is such, however, that he gives her the benefit of the doubt.
Things are ratcheted up a notch or three when Terry and Cynthia hire a private investigator, whose questions spark a pair of horrendous occurrences that in turn bring the events that began over a quarter century before to a shocking conclusion.
While Barclay’s work has always been enjoyable and worth reading, NO TIME FOR GOODBYE is in a class all by itself. Barclay is simply marvelous as he appears to repeatedly paint himself into a corner, only to deftly exit through the door that happened to be there all along, in plain view. As I approached the conclusion, I couldn’t help but shout “OF COURSE!” as all was revealed. The author plays fair, providing a clue or two early on as to the impetus behind the disappearance of three-quarters of the Bigge family. But a good deal of the enjoyment of the book is not so much the surprise of the solution but the manner in which Barclay carries it off.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 13, 2011