Book Title: A Noise Downstairs
Author: Linwood Barclay
Genres: Psychological Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Crime Fiction
Pub Date: 07/24/18
College professor Paul Davis is a normal guy with a normal life. Until, driving along a deserted road late one night, he surprises a murderer disposing of a couple of bodies. That’s when Paul’s “normal” existence is turned upside down. After nearly losing his own life in that encounter, he finds himself battling PTSD, depression, and severe problems at work. His wife, Charlotte, desperate to cheer him up, brings home a vintage typewriter—complete with ink ribbons and heavy round keys—to encourage him to get started on that novel he’s always intended to write.
However, the typewriter itself is a problem. Paul swears it’s possessed and types by itself at night. But only Paul can hear the noise coming from downstairs; Charlotte doesn’t hear a thing. And she worries he’s going off the rails.
Paul believes the typewriter is somehow connected to the murderer he discovered nearly a year ago. The killer had made his victims type apologies to him before ending their lives. Has another sick twist of fate entwined his life with the killer—could this be the same machine? Increasingly tormented but determined to discover the truth and confront his nightmare, Paul begins investigating the deaths himself.
But that may not be the best thing to do. Maybe Paul should just take the typewriter back to where his wife found it. Maybe he should stop asking questions and simply walk away while he can. . . .
Here it is guys… drum roll please… I present your summer 2018 popcorn thriller-A Noise Downstairs! Seriously folks, this one is a must for your TBR if you are looking for a fast-paced story that is easily read in any setting and impossible to put down. I’ve been a fan of Linwood Barclay’s writing for almost a decade now and find I have a Barclay shaped hole that only his books can fill each year. If you’re new to his work, then know his writing style is very similar to Harlan Coben’s, meaning there are usually many plot lines that start out removed from each other but are slowly brought together toward the end for the big reveal. This is a standalone, and is set away from the area most of his other books take place in, so it felt set apart in more ways than just not taking place in a series. I feel it was the perfect timing for the author to do so, as he’s gone through a bit of a rebranding in the past year and clearly means to do so with a clean slate.
While it was wholly compulsive and difficult to put down, A Noise Downstairs doesn’t become an action driven plot for the first 30-40% of the novel; we take our time in a slow burning suspense while becoming acquainted with the characters, which is a style of writing I’m quite partial to. Ok, except for that first section, which perfectly hooked my attention. You get a lot of the set up from the synopsis, but initially we find our main narrator Paul caught in an unexpected exchange with co-worker Kenneth. Unfortunately, Paul has decided to follow Ken to inform him that he has a tail light out, things escalate, and Ken attempts to murder Paul. We are then thrust forward 8 months after the incident, where Ken is in prison, Paul is spending time recovering with the help of his therapist Anna and his second wife Charlotte, and things are tense. Paul thinks it will be cathartic to write about his experiences in hopes of working through his PTSD, so Charlotte surprises him with an old Underwood typewriter she found at a yard sale. The thing is, Paul starts hearing the typewriter in the middle of the night, and what unfolds is a tale of “Is he delusional or is someone out to get him?” in the most suspenseful format.
Ok, about the story itself. The plot is told mostly through three points of view: Paul’s, Anna’s (the psychiatrist), and Charlotte’s (Paul’s current wife). Also sprinkled throughout the story we learn about Paul’s ex-wife, her new husband, Paul’s son, Anna’s father, and Kenneth and his family. Everything pretty much branches off from these particular head points, and there are side plots galore. Maybe a few people will find it unnecessarily confusing, but I thought it was tastefully done and added to the intrigue. Which side plots would turn out to be connected to the main? Which were red herrings? Which were unrelated but still vital to the story’s characterization? This was all present and kept me, a seasoned mystery fanatic, busy, preoccupied, and flustered in the best way possible.
Here’s what I loved most about this book- I thought I had it all figured out, and I was both right and wrong. I LOVE IT WHEN THIS HAPPENS! Let me explain (minus the spoilers). If you are an expert detective while reading novels of suspense, or if you’ve even simply read a few, you’ll probably think you know where this is going. And you’d be right, EXCEPT… Here’s the thing, I had the who, the why, and some of the how figured out. There are only so many options to what’s going on with the dang typewriter, so naturally many readers will come to that conclusion on their own. What I loved was that the author gives us all this, and it’s a red herring in and of itself. I won’t tell you exactly when this happens, because I don’t want you to be expecting it, but it’s not at the very end. And then come the waves of reveals my friends… WAVES! How exciting is it to keep receiving twists, both big and small, time after time until the last page is turned? The first twist that I hadn’t personally figured out knocked me completely off balance when it happened. It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book where the author chose to use this particular plot element and it was beautifully done. If you want to know more than that sloppy paragraph above, you’ll just have to pick up the book for yourself.
I hope I’ve done a halfway decent job of convincing you to pick up A Noise Downstairs this summer; most of you know it’s rare for me to read/review a book so far ahead of publication date, but I did this on a whim and I’m so glad that I did. If you like to compile your seasonal TBRs ahead of time like I do, you’ll certainly want to add this to your list. Also, it has a fancy new cover that is not featured in my Instagram photo, so there’s that too. Highly recommended for a lightning fast read. I can’t wait to hear everyone else’s thoughts because I NEED TO TALK ABOUT THIS BOOK Y’ALL!
*Review copy furnished by the publisher.