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.
Welcome to our next buddy read! This time we decided to experiment with an author neither of have read before, Linwood Barclay. We were completely intrigued by this snazzy title, and wanted to give it a try. However, as a mystery/thriller novel, it kind of fell short. Read on to find our thoughts!
Pacing and Suspense Build-Up
A: What I love about mysteries and thrillers is the build up to the climax. Being new to Linwood Barclay, I didn’t know what to expect. The multiple POVs took away a lot from the suspense because you don’t follow anyone for very long. It’s the same event being observed from different perspectives for a good chunk of the book. The main mystery took too long to ramp up. Even from the synopsis, we know there’ll be multiple incidents by Wednesday but each day took too long to get through. I swear Wednesday came more than halfway through the story. Being the omniscient reader also made it frustrating when it took characters so long to realize there was an issue.
F: Overall there wasn’t much what I would call “suspense” in the sense I was expecting. There was certainly a lot of build-up and intrigue. It wasn’t exactly slow per se, but the endless build up made it overall feel slow. I didn’t mind the pacing, but the payout at the end was slightly unsatisfactory. This is probably the weakest section for my review; as you’ll see as you keep reading, this book really didn’t fall into the mystery/thriller category like we thought it would.
F: Like a mystery book, it did have a few red herrings dropped here and there. However, I really wasn’t a fan of how it was used and how it all tied together at the end. On the bright side, what I found the best about this book was probably its writing style. It was super easy to read, super easy to follow, good with the different voices and POVs. On the whole it was a very character-driven book, which was a bit unexpected given the synopsis and genre of the book. The premise of the book was excellent, but perhaps not executed in the expected way.
A: Likewise, I didn’t feel the red herrings were perhaps the most “useful” or relevant. I felt dissatisfied with how some closed out. This book also felt less like a mystery and more prominently like a literary fiction piece. Having that perspective helped change my view on what I was expecting this book to give me. It was definitely more character driven rather than plot drive which is a bit unusual for mysteries in my experience. The use of romance or other character-driven plots was at times distracting from the mystery as well but it fit better when discovering more of the unique backstories and struggles of each character whose POV we followed.
A: I struggled a lot trying to figure out who the main character(s) were in the beginning. There were just so many people, perhaps even some irrelevant characters we were stuck following. As mentioned, some didn’t wrap up the character arc very well, which can be expected with so many multiple POVs but it could’ve also been executed better. Besides that initial unease with so many people to follow though, the characters were good, very diverse, unique and interesting. Their voices were easily differentiated and I felt particularly connected with a number of them as I got to know who they individually were. Even in audio format it was still noticeable and that’s the sign of a good author to be able to do so.
F: The characters were all unique and distinct, each with their own struggles and motivations. This was definitely another highlight of the book. Great character construction, and it was easy for me to get invested into many of their storylines. Andge and I would both classify this book as more of a literary fiction, with interesting and intriguing characters driving the drama and plot forward. In that sense, it was a pretty good book! Just not what we were expecting.
F: Because of the nature of the book being character-driven, the ending was perhaps not enough. It wasn’t a bad ending by any means, but I think for me it left a bit to be desired. I wanted more from the ending for all the characters, considering we followed each of them so in depth for so long.
A: More closure would have been nice? That’s definitely my first thought. It’s not what I expected which can be a good and bad thing. I wasn’t really driven by the need for a conclusion to the mystery, so much as the need to know how the characters’ stories would wrap up. Because it was so character driven, I was invested in them as people and how the aftermath of the climax may impact them all.
Bonus – Audiobook vs. E-book
We “read” this together, but actually using different medias! That made for interesting discussions when we met up for discussions.
A: It was interesting to see if things were different reading the same book in different formats. I wouldn’t have caught some things, such as weird spellings for names and italicized chapters. I couldn’t rewind as easily if I missed something that may have been crucial. But I felt with the narrator reading it for me, the drag due to lack of suspense wasn’t as evident because someone was always pushing me onwards to the end. I really appreciated that ‘cause otherwise I might not have finished this quickly or perhaps even at all.
F: There were occasional things that I caught that Andge didn’t, or vice versa. I think the different methods of “reading” can really affect how some scenes are interpreted, and the visual (or audio) elements can emphasize different aspects of the book. It was easier for me to re-read or go back to find something in an e-book for sure though. And the visual elements of chapter titles reminding me of dates, etc. can also be helpful for grounding a reader. I should experiment more with audio-books though!