Catch up on shows with The Coast On Demand
Friday, September 14, 2012 12:00 PM
The audacity of Linwood Barclay! Few thriller writers have his nerve or verve, or his ability to toy with his reader like a kitten with a mouse without provoking irritation. The thematic ingredients of the rambunctious Trust Your Eyes include fraternal love and discord, mental illness, child abuse, murder – always murder – and the obliteration of privacy in an online world. Then there’s a romantic subplot, which works because Barclay is wise enough not to give it excessive oxygen, and a presidential guest appearance.
Ray Kilbride, 37, has a brother, Thomas, two years younger. Splitting their parents’ estate will garner them approximately $250,000 apiece, but it’s not financial management that’s at issue. Thomas has schizophrenia – though his obsessiveness and extraordinary capacity for memory seem hallmarks of Asperger’s more than mental illness – and is unable to live independently. An exasperated Ray sets him the task of vacuuming only to find his brother holding the nozzle immobile over each patch of carpet for seconds at a time.
Where Thomas excels is in a specific, and potentially very valuable, aspect of geography. With a programme called Whirl 360- (a fictional Google Earth), he is systematically working his way through every world city and memorizing streets, shops and residences. Why? He’s working, he says, for the CIA, which is treating him as a resource for response to an expected cataclysmic event that will cripple all federal computers and thus the US’ intelligence capabilities. All electronic maps, for instance, will be gone.
What will cause this is unclear: An unforeseeable computer glitch, perhaps, or a virus or technology-focused terrorist attack. Thomas’ task is obvious, to him if not to the disbelieving souls around him – commit the world to visual memory, street by street, so that he may recreate the lost maps. He won’t let the CIA or his nation down, and he takes to his task with all the fervour of a man reporting to Bill Clinton, with whom he claims to be in regular telephone contact.
It’s a delightful premise, and Barclay takes to it with skill and enthusiasm. The upshot is that Thomas’ work leads him to a suspicious image – a street shot has captured an apparent murder-in-progress that the entire world can see if they know where to look – and Ray becomes unwitting bait by poking around.
A sterling cast of supporting sociopaths enhances the main narrative. One is Allison Fitch, a budding con artist whose misbehaviour links her to the man who would be governor of the state of New York (and who, in his passion for taking down crooked union bosses and mobsters in his role as attorney-general, bears more than a passing resemblance to the disgraced real-life former governor Eliot Spitzer).
The AG is surrounded by a coterie of advisers whose problem-solving skills extend to, when necessary, the dispatch of a one-time Australian Olympic gymnast who has parlayed her lithe agility into a new vocation: Assassin for hire. Her nimbleness and strength does come in handy; Nicole abhors guns, and speculating about where her noble approach to her work will lead her is one of the many pleasures Barclay offers.
If there is such a thing as a screwball thriller, Trust Your Eyes is it, and Barclay, with this marriage of mayhem and menace, is at the top of his game.
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