In Barclay’s latest thriller, “The Accident,” Glen Garber operates a small construction business in Milford, Connecticut that he took over when his father died. His business has been hit hard since the downturn of the economy, and to make matters worse, one of the houses he was building burnt down before completion. Will his insurance cover the loss?

His wife Sheila is taking a business course in the evening. One night she fails to come home, and after waiting several hours, Glen bundles his eight-year-daughter Kelly into the car and begins looking for her. He arrives upon the scene of a horrible car accident and discovers that Sheila and two other people are dead. The police tell Glen that Sheila was responsible, that she was drunk (her blood alcohol seven times the legal limit!) and her car was parked in the middle on an off ramp.

Glen doesn’t believe for a minute that Sheila drank that much alcohol by choice or that she was an alcoholic. If she had been an alcoholic wouldn’t he have known? Surely he would have seen the signs. Moreover, was this really an accident? Glen isn’t so sure.

As Glen begins looking into the accident he realizes that his ordinary and boring suburban neighborhood has much more going on beneath the surface than he originally thought. Since the economic downturn some of his neighbors have been feeling the credit crunch—some losing their jobs or facing lay-offs, foreclosures, downsizing or just trying to make ends meet.

In addition to running his construction business Glen takes on the role of full-time parent to Kelly. His emotions regarding Sheila run the gamut from grief to anger. Glen tries to make life as normal as possible for Kelly so he lets her go to a sleepover at her best friend Emily Slocum’s house. During a hide-and-seek game Kelly is hiding in the Slocum’s bedroom when she hears parts of two phone conversations between Ann, Emily’s mother, and unknown persons. Ann discovers Kelly hiding in the closet, orders her out, and tells her to stay in the bedroom. While Ann is out of the room Kelly uses her cell phone to call her father and she begs him to come and get her.

Ann’s body is found the next morning under somewhat suspicious circumstances. Ann had left the house shortly after Kelly and her dad had left, telling her husband that she was supposed to meet a friend. Still reeling from the loss of her own mother, Kelly is now faced with dealing with the death of her best friend’s mother.

As Glen delves into the mysteries surrounding the deaths, he discovers that his neighbors, “desperate housewives” as well as some of their worried husbands, have resorted to other ways to earn extra cash, some of them illegal measures that possibly involve a gangster. Glen’s and Kelly’s lives may be in danger as well.

I always enjoy Linwood Barclay’s novels and “The Accident” is no exception. He has written another fast-paced, tension-filled stand-alone thriller. “The Accident” is a timely mystery, both thought-provoking and riveting. His characters are normal people struggling to keep roofs over their heads, clothes on their families’ backs and food on the table; however, these characters use extraordinary and illegal methods to accomplish their goals. “The Accident” is an addictive story that keeps the reader guessing. The ending caught me totally by surprise.

Peter Berkrot performs a gripping narration of this suspenseful audiobook as he effortlessly switches between first and third person and he strikes just the right note with the voice of each character.

“The Accident” is available in print, downloadable e-book and MP3-disc audiobook formats at the Joplin Public Library.

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