It has to be said there’s a lot to like about Find You First by Linwood Barclay. I enjoyed the element of suspense but found the character development to be particularly interesting, becoming far more attached to some than is sensible in a thriller.
I read a media release, or perhaps a comment by Stephen King, noting this book opens with a bang and it certainly does. And the pace pretty much keeps going until it’s done. I’ve read most if not all of Barclay’s books and this is probably fairly close to being a favourite.Find You First
by Linwood Barclay
Published by HQ, HQ Fiction
Source: Harper Collins
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 0008332045, 9780008332051
Tech billionaire Miles has more money than he can ever spend, and everything he could dream of – except time. Now facing a terminal illness, Miles knows he must seize every minute to put his life in order. And that means taking a long hard look at his past.
Somewhere out there, Miles has children. And they might be about to inherit both the good and bad from him – possibly his fortune, or possibly something more sinister.
So Miles decides to track down his missing children. But a vicious killer is one step ahead of him. One by one, people are vanishing. Not just disappearing, every trace of them is wiped.
A key player in this book (not mentioned in the blurb) is the very not-delightful character Jeremy Pritkin. He started a tech company that he sold for squillions and now lives a life that sounds like an adult version of Michael Jackson’s Neverland. On steroids.
When we meet him he’s getting an RV moved into his office. Just because he can.
Pritkin also has a penchant for underage girls, violence and meeting every kinky need of VIPs in town and then using it against them to get what he wants. It takes some time however, to see how his story or path converges with Miles and the children he’s seeking.
In some ways he’s Miles’ antithesis. Miles has deliberately kept people at a distance but he’s now confronted by that very fact, and when he reaches out he proves himself to be kind and generous. And of course there’s an unhappy irony about the fact he’s only doing it now…. when his time is limited.
The first of the children he reaches out to is the delightful Chloe who’s working as a waitress and wants to become a documentary film maker. She knows her gay mother became pregnant via sperm donation and has been trying to track down her father and siblings when she meets one of her half-brothers.
It’s probably not giving too much away to say Miles finds Chloe and then the pair go in search of other children he possibly fathered. There’s a bittersweetness about their burgeoning relationship because of course he has Huntington’s and is dying. His reasons for connecting with his children are twofold, he’s considering leaving his vast fortune to them, but also wants to warn them about the genetic disease.
Unfortunately his children start disappearing. Or ‘being disappeared’. It’s as if every trace of them is removed. And when we meet the killers we learn that’s very much their brief.
It feels that it cannot be coincidence that the children Miles has fathered are getting picked off just as he’s seeking them out. Or is it? Does one of his children want a bigger slice of their father’s financial pie, or is it someone – or something – else entirely?
Barclay introduces a few other players. There’s Miles’ brother who he loves and respects, but who is married to a woman he doesn’t like or trust. It means means he won’t leave Gilbert the successful business he’s grown. And then there’s Miles’ helpers including assistant Dorian who seems to be able to predict her boss’s moods and needs.
This book is long but packed with action. We quickly learn Barclay has no qualms about killing off characters we assume to be central and some of the antagonists demonstrate a confronting sense of callousness. I recall his last book, Elevator Pitch, was equally macabre and nonchalantly pragmatic.
The plot itself is an intriguing one and when we learn the ‘why the kids are being killed’ it’s a little left field. Slightly weird. There’s a sense of closure though, even though things don’t exactly work out as neatly as we’d expect.
Although it’s not central to the plot Barclay touches briefly on a deeper theme. Dorian asks Miles – at one point – if he wishes he’d known about his terminal illness earlier and it begs the question of whether he should put any offspring in the same predicament. Is even giving them to knowledge that they ‘may’ carry the disease and letting them decide whether to be tested the right thing to do? Or should he allow them to live in oblivion until there’s a reason they look further themselves?
There’s a lot of complexity here and when mixed with likeable and thoroughly unlikeable characters readers are offered a riveting read. Although I’ve enjoyed Barclay’s recent series I’m very much loving his standalone novels.
Find You First by Linwood Barclay will be published in Australia by HQ Fiction/Harper Collins in early February 2021.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.