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No Time for Goodbye

by Linwood Barclay

The central event at the core of author and Toronto Star columnist Linwood Barclay’s latest fast-paced thriller is the unexplained, overnight disappearance of a teenage girl’s family.

Barclay’s tale really begins 25 years later, with the long-abandoned daughter, Cynthia Bigge. She’s now a dressmaker with a daughter of her own, but still looking to solve the central mystery of her life, even if it means participating in a true-crime TV show. Narrated by Bigge’s fiancé, the novel is peppered with thoughtful moments of observation. Cynthia warns her husband-to-be that he cannot damage her emotionally, since she “can’t be hurt any more than what’s already happened.” She later admits to him that “I knew getting close to you would only bring you some of the pain I’d been feeling, but I was selfish. I wanted to share your love so desperately, even if that meant you’d have to share my pain.” This is good, surprisingly sensible characterization.

“Surprisingly,” because the book is essentially a fairly amiable airport thriller – one that flies the friendlier skies, if you will. What grounds it are the rules of the Hollywood hopeful, which dictate that All Must Be Revealed. So it’s no spoiler to disclose that the mystery of the family’s disappearance is eventually solved – that is, after all, the book’s raison d’être. To that end, the final chapters overflow with excessively detailed, no-clue-left-behind explanations. Indeed, No Time for Goodbye brims with what seem to be the reddest of herrings that almost all turn out to be important – an oft-mentioned child’s telescope and its significantly rickety tripod; a typewriter so old its e’s look like c’s, etc.

Barclay at least makes time for meticulous plotting, which is what almost saves the book in the end. And though the book’s big reveal is too revealing and too long-delayed for this mystery fan, it’s still a dandy one.