LINWOOD BARCLAY – A Tap on the Window. New American Library, hardcover, 2013. Signet, paperback, July 2014.

   Here’s how the book begins. For lovers of PI and/or noir fiction, it’s a beginning that’s hard to resist, nor should they:

   A middle-aged guy wold have to be a total fool to pick up a teenaged girl standing outside a bar with her thumb sticking out. Not that bright on her part, either, when you think about it. But right now, we’re talking about my stupidity, not hers.

   She standing there at the curb, her stringy blond rain-soaked hair hanging in her face, the neon glow from the Coors sign in the window of Patchett’s Bar bathing her in an eerie light. Her shoulders were hunched up against the drizzle, as if that would keep her warm and dry.

   It was hard to tell her age, exactly. Old enough to drive legally, and maybe even vote, but not likely old enough to drink.

   The girl taps on the automobile window, and PI Cal Weaver lets her in, a good deed that does hardly anyone any favors, once the remaining 450 pages are done. It’s a quick read, though. Lincoln Barclay tells a fast-paced story, intricately woven but but laid out in clear, crisp prose.

   It turns out that the girl was a schoolmate of Weaver’s son, and there is a story behind the story there. Scott is dead, having jumped off a four-story building to his death until the influence of pharmaceuticals, and Weaver has been harassing any would-be drug dealers to find out which one of them sold Scott the deadly dose. But because of his obsession and his wife’s own misery, their marriage is teetering on the rocks.

   But getting back to the girl, as we should, her story leads Weaver into another direction altogether. He becomes part of her plan to throw someone off her trail, but the girl she makes a switch with ends up dead. Complicating matters is a feud between the police chief, Weaver’s brother-in-law, and the mayor, who has secrets of his own, but who is also the father of the girl Weaver picked up and who has now disappeared.

   There are also some cops on the small town police department in the upstate New York area who are more inclined to use force than they should be in keeping undesirables out; the proximity of Niagara Falls as a good way of disposing of bodies; and in the interspersed sections in italics, separate from Weaver’s own narrative, a family crime and subsequent conspiracy of some sort is obviously the key that connects all of the above together.

   There is plenty of gritty behind-the-scenes small town atmosphere in this novel. Not everything is cheery and bright in non-urban America. The book does not end well, by which I mean for the characters, but it does appear that Cal Weaver escapes well enough that he may have other adventures. It’s a gripping story for the reader, except for the sections in italics, which personally I could done without, with no harm done, and perhaps even to the betterment of the book.

Bibliographic Update: Cal Weaver has subsequently appeared in book two and three of Barclay’s “Promised Land” trilogy: Broken Promise (2015) and Far from True (2016). I may hunt them down, eventually, but I think I will wait for the fallout left behind this novel to die down first.