Book review: Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay

Tuesday, July 16, 2019 Permalink

I’m posting this review earlier than planned as I accidentally read some of my TBR pile in the wrong order. As I only had this one electronically I didn’t have the usual media release and mistakenly thought it was out before some of the others on my list. So, oops.

Also, I’m a fan of Linwood Barclay and have read and reviewed many of his other books (and series) here, so happy to have read it slightly earlier than intended.

Book review: Elevator Pitch by Linwood BarclayElevator Pitch
by Linwood Barclay
Published by Harlequin
on August 19th 2019
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Psychological Thriller, Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 9780008332006
Pages: 437

It all begins on a Monday, when four people board an elevator in a Manhattan office tower. Each presses a button for their floor, but the elevator proceeds, non-stop, to the top. Once there, it stops for a few seconds, and then plummets.

Right to the bottom of the shaft.

It appears to be a horrific, random tragedy. But then, on Tuesday, it happens again, in a different Manhattan skyscraper. And when Wednesday brings yet another high-rise catastrophe, one of the most vertical cities in the world—and the nation’s capital of media, finance, and entertainment—is plunged into chaos.

Clearly, this is anything but random. This is a cold, calculated bid to terrorize the city. And it’s working. Fearing for their lives, thousands of men in women working in offices across the city refuse leave their homes. Commerce has slowed to a trickle. Emergency calls to the top floors of apartment buildings go unanswered.

Who is behind this? Why are they doing it? What do these deadly acts of sabotage have to do with the fingerless body found on the High Line? Two seasoned New York detectives and a straight-shooting journalist must race against time to find the answers before the city’s newest, and tallest, residential tower has its Friday night ribbon-cutting.

I joked on Instagram (when sharing the cover pic of this book) that I hoped that people didn’t ‘try this at home’. The blurb promotes the book as ‘doing for elevators what Jaws did for the beach’. I am extremely shark phobic and read Jaws at a young age (probably too young but we were on Fraser Island and reading options were limited. I still remember spending the entire barge trip home waiting for some mammoth shark to come and swallow the massive vessel!)

So, like Adrian McKinty’s The Chain, there’s a sense of… “Oh god I hope this doesn’t give people ideas!” But that’s mixed with a reminder that sociopaths and psychopaths will be motivated by the things we least expect. (And I note there have actually been a few elevator / lift-themed horror movies, so this isn’t completely unheard of.

Of course, this isn’t science fiction so elevator systems across the city haven’t come alive (SkyNet style) to overthrow their human masters. Rather, fairly early on, it’s discovered that the mishaps are being manipulated by someone who’s hacked the system and installed cameras to watch.

So… a psychopathic voyeur perhaps, which would make them very hard to find if there’s no obvious motive? Or someone with a personal axe to grind?

Barclay (again) introduces some great characters. I really liked ambitious (forty-something) journalist Barbara who is determined to reveal the NYC Mayor’s corruption. And then there’s the Mayor’s son… the constantly belittled Glover and handsome security cum-fixer Chris who takes a shine to Barbara. And vice versa.

And then there’s Detective Jerry Bourque (and his partner, Lois Delgado). I wondered if Jerry had been in another novel as it felt a little as if we were coming in part-way through his story but we soon get caught-up on events of his past, continuing to impact on him.

On top of that there’s Bucky a somewhat ‘simple’ hatchet man for the ‘Flyovers’ a domestic extremist group responsible for a number of bombings; who seemingly have a problem with ‘coastal’ elites ‘flying’ between New York, Boston, LA and San Francisco. I didn’t know that was a thing? We have a joking rivalry between states here in Australia but not one that generates venom. (Other than a couple of times a year for sporting events!)

Like I said, we’re again given great characters, but something I (also) found in Barclay’s Promise Falls series, was that it’s a little hard for readers to identify with the / a narrator. Obviously it’s not uncommon to have multiple narrators. Here we spend a lot of time with Barbara and Jerry though the story unfolds from several points of view.

I suspect it’s the introduction the myriad of characters and plots (from the elevator sabotage, to mayoral misconduct, to Russian defectors, to domestic terrorists) that distracted me a little and meant my allegiances (and focus) were perhaps scattered.

But as is (also) so often the case with Barclay he throws in some surprising twists.

Naturally my ingeniousness (!!) pointed me in the direction of the baddie quite early in the book, and we’re later led there via the plot, but all is not as it seems… and we’re given some hints via a backstory interspersed throughout the novel.

Although paranoid about sharks after Jaws, this hasn’t caused me to be overly suspicious of elevators. Some of the scenes are confronting though and it could freak some out a little.

As an aside I particularly appreciated the fact that Barclay highlights the role elevators play in a city like New York and how their non-functionality can impact on lives. And livelihoods.

Weirdly I was saddened by the way things ultimately turn out, but I guess I should take solace in the fact Barclay offers up textured characters who aren’t always as they seem. And of course it’s a reminder that unlikeable people sometimes have reasons for being that way and may occasionally have some redeeming qualities. And vice versa.

Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay will be published in Australia by Harlequin / Harper Collins on 19 August 2019.

I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. 


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