Novel: A Noise Downstairs (2018)
Author: Linwood Barclay
Overview: Eight months ago, Paul Davis found two dead bodies in the back of his colleague’s car. He was attacked, left for dead, and has been slowly recovering ever since. Due to his head injury he has periods that he can’t remember.
His assault has led to PTSD and panic attacks. Therapy has helped during the day, but at night he hears things, things that no one else does. His wife tries to help him, but fears he’s losing his mind, and the stranger things get, the more Paul fears the same thing.
Review: I have read numerous Linwood Barclay novels over the years and always get through them quickly as they are well written, fast-paced psychological thrillers. However, A Noise Downstairs, his most recent novel, was a little predictable for me.
This may be because I have become attuned to his style and therefore am always looking one step ahead. That isn’t to say I didn’t thoroughly enjoy the novel – I finished it in just three days. However, I wasn’t left with that ‘dum dum dum’ realisation I have found with his other novels.
The novel begins with college professor Paul Davis discovering the bodies of two women in his colleague’s car. The killer, his friend and colleague, Kenneth Hoffman, attempts to kill him but doesn’t succeed as a police car shows up.
We jump forward eight months where Kenneth Hoffman is in prison and Paul is suffering from PTSD. The novel switches viewpoints between Paul, his wife Charlotte, and Paul’s therapist Anna White, all who keep the momentum of the plot moving forward.
Paul hasn’t been back to work since the attack and is struggling to deal with what happened to him, so decides to write it all down. His wife brings home an old typewriter to give him inspiration and that is when things start to spiral. Paul starts hearing noises in the night, noises from the typewriter. The typewriter happens to be much like the one Kenneth Hoffman made his victims write their final notes on. Paul begins to think that the typewriter might be haunted, either that or he’s losing his mind. His wife and therapist start to have concerns about his mental health but, as with all Linwood Barclay novels, nothing is ever as it seems.
Barclay, as always, manages to create tension by keeping the focus close to the main characters and the little things. He creates suspense in the ordinary and never fails to show the reader the many sides men and women have. The use of different viewpoints allows us readers to be deceived, but, even though I may have found it predictable, it was certainly believable.
SPOILER: Aside from my putting together most of the plot before I reached the end, I also felt cheated when Barclay killed off the main protagonist. Being an author, I understand the need to kill off characters when it is intrinsic and organic to the plot, but seeing as the protagonist of the story never got closure, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. Every other character had a resolution or got their ‘just desserts’, but Paul Davis never found out what happened.
He wanted closure as to why his friend had killed those people, and never found out that it wasn’t his friend who had killed them. He also never found out that his own wife was a cheating psychopath. It made me wonder whether Barclay actually liked his protagonist. Through the eyes of Paul’s wife he was said to be boring and unambitious, but I didn’t feel that to be true, which made what happened to him even sadder.
Regardless of piecing together the plot a little earlier than I would have hoped, A Noise Downstairs was an enjoyable read. One of my favourite things about Barclay’s novels is the way he makes you think about the complexity of human psychology. Sometimes you realise just how scary people can be!
Written by Rebecca Perkin