Created by Linwood Barclay
"Sometimes doing the right thing hurts."
Count me in.
When we meet him in A Tap on the Window (2013), CAL WEAVER is a small town private eye, an Everyman in a world of hurt, trying to pick up the pieces after the suicide of his teenage son Scott a few months earlier and the marriage that is crumbling in its aftermath. Obsessed with discovering the circumstances around Scott's death, Cal's been doggedly running his own investigation, relentlessly questioning local teenagers, and so when pretty young Claire, a classmate of Scott's, taps on his car window one dark, rainy night, asking for a ride, Cal reluctantly plays Samaritan. and gives her a lift.
And then the fun really starts...
Those looking for for smash-bang, granite-jawed private eye action may be disappointed, but those who enjoy Ross Macdonald or Harlan Coben's slow burn familial tragedies will find much to love in A Tap at the Window. And once more, to his credit, Barclay (a deceptively mild-mannered writer) eschews the land of wish-fulfillment upper middle class lives and focusses on people who have to live through the bits and pieces of broken families in the real world. There are no wealthy surgeons here, no high-powered attorneys, no world renowned painters or pampered rock stars in well-off neighbourhoods or beach front communites. Barclay's protagonists tend to be used car salesman, building contractors, school teachers... or middle-aged private eyes.
Like Cal. He's no mythic two-fisted, rotgut-swilling gumshoe, but rather a shopworn, quietly efficient investigator sweating out his life in Griffon, a nothing-special small town in upstate New York near Buffalo; just another working class grunt trying to do the best he can, slowly piecing together an emotionally bruising case that somehow finds him the number one suspect in the murder of Claire's best friend.
If, as Chandler said, Hammett gave murder back to the people who commit it for a reason, then Barclay gives the familial tragedy back to those of us who have to somehow live through it, and then get up the next morning and go to work. There may be no pity in the naked city, but in Barclay's world, there's precious damn little of it in the suburbs and small towns either. And that's where most of us live.
And that, I thought, was that. A Tap on the Window was a great one-off; one of the more memorable books of that year for me.
But it turns out Barclay had something bigger in mind. In 2015, he started the Promise Falls series, a trio of interconnected novels set in a small rural town north of Albany, that rounds up several characters from his previous books, including Cal. It seems Cal was originally from Promise Falls, and worked as a cop there before moving to Griffon. In Far from True (2016), the second book, we learn he's returned to Promise Falls, and set up shop as a private detective, only to play a pivotal role when the town's water supply is poisoned in The Twenty-Three (also 2016), the concluding book in the trilogy.
But it turns out Barclay still can't quite get Promise Falls out of his system. In 2017, a standalone (so far) novel, Parting Shot, has Cal Weaver back, being hired to look into threats being made against the local pariah: a young man accused of killing of young girl while he was drunk and driving a stolen car.
Whether this is actually the author's parting shot to Promise Falls remains to be seen, but gawd, I hope not...
Preliminary report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Full report to come.
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