Exclusive Review of Linwood Barclay’s ‘A Noise Downstairs’.

If you’re going to read one thriller this year, make it Linwood Barclay’s latest – you won’t be disappointed” – a CUB must-read!

Paul Davis finds two dead bodies in the back of a co-worker’s car.  He was attacked but miraculously survived.  Fast-forward eight months, and Paul is slowly recovering from the traumatic event that nearly cost him his life.  Whilst he has memory lapses, sudden panic attacks and becomes confused, his health is gradually improving with the help of his therapist and wife’s support. However, at night, Paul hears things, things that no-one else can and that nobody else believes.  Is he really losing his mind?  Or does someone want him to think that he is?

This book was addictive and I was hooked from the moment I finished reading the prologue; the opening few pages throw you in at the deep end and are just a taster of what’s in store for you for the remainder of the novel.  Things admittedly calm down after the explosive start, but that is why Barclay is such a superb writer; he draws you in and slowly but surely raises the suspense to the point where you cannot put his book down.  Towards the end, the plot is insanely tense and I was racing through the last fifteen or so chapters because I could not get enough.

The psychological implications are frighteningly creepy.  You put yourself in Paul’s position and imagine how you would feel if you couldn’t remember doing tasks or were doing things and you weren’t even aware of it (the latter was definitely more terrifying for me!).  Memory, consciousness and the mind, are all explored in this novel with thought-provoking results; just as Paul begins to question his sanity after hearing things in the night, you will start to wonder about your own state of mind when you hear noises, particularly after nightfall. I for one will always think of this book whenever I wake up in the night!

Paul was one of my favourite characters because I felt so much sympathy for him; he had real psychological depth.  He is a good man who loves his wife and son, and despite enduring so much, he desperately tries to retain a grip on reality, for his family’s sake as well as his own. I really admired him when he went to visit his attacker in prison to try and heal his mental scars; that kind of action takes a lot of courage that not everyone has.  My other favourite character was Paul’s therapist, Anna White.  She is calm and really cares about helping her patients through whatever difficulties they are trying to overcome.  Shouldering others’ mental burdens is far from easy, particularly when the patient is as disturbing as Gavin Hitchens.  After reading a chapter concerning Gavin, my immediate thought was: how on earth am I supposed to get to sleep now? (Let me know in the comment section below which chapter you think it was that left me feeling like this, and also if other chapters left you feeling like this too).

There are surprises, shocks, twists and turns from every direction that you simply don’t see coming.  Just when you think that all has been revealed, Barclay stuns you again.  I was talking out loud with astonishment at each new revelation that kept building on the last one. It is not easy as an author to startle your readers with the truth, but Barclay excels at this.

A Noise Downstairs will intrigue you, astonish you with unpredictable events, and leave you terrified to sleep (I’ve yet to decide whether this is a benefit of reading a book).  If you’re going to read one thriller this year, make it Linwood Barclay’s latest; it will not disappoint.  I would also thoroughly recommend his other novels because they are fantastic thrillers.

Rating: 5/5

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