If you want to delve into the world of mystery and conspiracy, with more suspense than you know what to do with, then the books of Linwood Barclay might be what you are looking for. His books touch on the themes of real people taking on extraordinary conspiracies, the role that fear and other emotions play in our lives, and they contain a touch of humor amid it all too.
Linwood Barclay moved to Canada when he was four, after growing up in Connecticut, and went to Trent University in Ontario. In 1981 he began writing the humor column for the Toronto Star, and wrote with them until 2006 when he retired and began answering the call of fiction. In 2007, he began writing thrillers, embracing more sinister and unnerving plots while still using the lessons he had learned during his time at the paper, and all of his books have been enjoyed by readers and critics alike.
But with so many of his books sharing themes, characters, and even locations, it can be hard to figure out where to start so you don’t get lost or spoil something for yourself. So here’s the best way to start reading his books in order!
The Zack Walker Series (2004-2007)
Bad Move (2004)
The first book starring the main character Zack Walker, this mystery thriller takes Zack and his family from the stresses and worries of big city living to the small town of Oakwood. For Zack, who is obsessed with safety and paranoid about all the dangers that could strike at him and his family, Oakwood is the perfect place that shows how things used to be. A place where everyone knows everyone.
Until someone Zack knows ends up dead, followed by another local. As Zack’s dreams of a suburban paradise are shattered, he finds that his overactive tendencies land him as the police’s prime suspect. Faced with going to jail over a crime he didn’t commit, Zack has to learn to override his fears and turn on his inner badass to hunt for the killer himself.
Bad Move won’t be a bad move for you to read, and it’s the first in a four book series, so keep on going if you want to see more of Zack Walker!
Bad Guys (2005)
Zack Walker has decided to hit the streets as a newspaper features writer this time, although his research into an ordinary hit and run quickly uncovers loose connections to a local crime gang in his new town of Crandall. Zack’s overactive imagination quickly turns those loose connections into a credible threat, one that sees him matching wits with crime lord Barbie Bullock. However, Zack’s fatherly instincts come into play whenever his children face serious woes in their lives, and all the bad guys will soon learn what a Zack attack truly feels like.
Bad Guys brings the same humor and detective charm of the first book to the sequel, and Zack Walker is as epic as ever.
Lone Wolf (2006)
A vacation is just what Zack Walker needs after what he has been through, and a lakeside fishing trip with his father fits the bill… until a mutilated corpse washes up on shore, and Zack’s tendencies to assume the worst are brought out. As more bodies turn up, Zack soon finds himself defending his hometown from a dangerous lone wolf, someone who has crazy beliefs and who isn’t afraid to use a high body count to make them.
Lone Wolf is one of those books you don’t want to read alone, because the suspense and action will have you wanting to talk about it once you read the last page!
Stone Rain (2007)
Zack Walker is in trouble. His marriage is on the rocks, his career as a newspaper writer is in shambles, and his good friend is a dominatrix who is on the run and framed for murder. As Zack finds himself grappling with the effect this story is having on his life, he finds that there are plenty of characters, and dark secrets, involved.
From his friend, to his town, to his wife, secrets are spilling out of the woodwork and they might just be connected to a triple homicide cold case and a looming drug war. As Zack faces his biggest challenge yet, he learns that the truth comes at a high cost.
Stone Rain will have you on the edge of your seat right until the last page, so be sure to give it a read!
No Time For Goodbye (2007)
At 14 years old, the entire family of Cynthia Bigge vanished from the face of the earth. 25 years later she has a new family of her own, but the truth about her old family is starting to show up in the form of unsettling and personal encounters. Now a killer is on the loose with connections to her old family, and a desire to end Cynthia’s new one.
No Time For Goodbye will make you wish that you had more time to read this book, because it is one that is hard to put down!
Too Close To Home (2008)
In the town of Promise Falls, no one thinks anything bad can happen… until a family is shot to death in their own home, and Jim and Ellen Cutter are worried that what happened to their neighbors could happen to them. As Jim attempts to investigate the murders, he discovers that their small town holds quite a few dark secrets, secrets that could have gotten their neighbors killed… and perhaps the biggest secret is that their son was in the house the night of the murder.
As more bodies pile up, Jim and Ellien need to face uncomfortable truths about the killings, before their home becomes the next victim. Too Close To Home might shatter everything you think you know about where you live, but it will also be an amazing read.
Fear The Worst (2009)
Tim Blake is a divorced car salesman whose life turns upside down when his daughter goes missing, and when he heads to the hotel where his daughter had her job… no one has heard of her, and her best friends are all scratching their heads. As Tim tries to hunt for his daughter and retraces her steps, he discovers that he isn’t the only person looking, and everything he thought he knew about his small town comes under suspicion.
Fear The Worst will have you fearing for Tim as he faces every parent’s worst nightmare, and proves that a father’s love might just be enough to overcome it.
Never Look Away (2010)
As David Harwood takes a break from the hard life of a reporter to take his wife and son to the amusement park, a day of fun and excitement turns into horror when his family vanishes, and the search only leads to more bad news. As David pushes his reporting skills to the limit in order to restore his family, he learns that there is more going on than meets the eye, and the truth might just break him.
Never Look Away is an appropriate title for this book, because that is what you will be doing as you turn every single page to get to the end!
The Accident (2011)
Glen Garber knows that his wife is taking night courses in order to land a better job, but what he doesn’t know is that she and two others have been killed in a car accident. When he finds out, he decides to take on the case himself, and discovers that even those closest to him have secrets they don’t want him to discover. As Glen discovers new layers of lawlessness and corruption in his suburb, he’s forced to take desperate measures in order to avenge his wife and keep his daughter safe.
The Accident isn’t an accident after all, and you won’t be able to stop reading until you learn what really happened that fateful night!
Trust Your Eyes (2012)
Thomas Kilbride is a schizophrenic obsessed with maps and detail, and while he never leaves the apartment, he’s able to learn more about the world through the computer than most people do outside. But as he examines people through the cameras, he sees an image of a woman being murdered.
Ray Kilbride takes care of his brother, and when he finds that Thomas’ newest paranoid ramblings have some truth to them, he decides to mount an investigation into the outside world. But as Ray looks into the New York murder, he discovers that he and his brother have stumbled into a conspiracy, and they might just be the next targets.
Trust Your Eyes is what you will be doing as you follow the brothers on their investigation, so give the book a read!
Never Saw It Coming (2013)
Being a psychic and a con artist allows you to do a lot of good for the world, or at least that’s what Keisha Ceylon thinks. She goes to the families of missing people, tells them she might have a vision about where the missing person is, and offers her help for a price. But when her latest case lands her in real danger, Keisha quickly learns that all her skills will be needed to solve this mystery and prevent her own disappearance.
Never Saw It Coming has an ending that you will not see coming as you flip through the pages of this amazing thriller!
A Tap On The Window (2013)
Cal Weaver’s life as a private investigator has fallen apart, and with his son’s death his marriage isn’t much better. As he wrestles with his grief on a rainy drive in the dead of night, a soaking wet girl taps on his car window and asks for a ride. Cal’s instincts as a private investigator instantly tell him that this girl has secrets, and she isn’t the only one. As a simple hitchhiking request grows more complicated and draws more secrets into the light, Cal’s only hope is to expose them, and survive against the people who want him dead.
A Tap On The Window will probably make you a bit more wary about who you pick up in the car, but it is an exciting read, and not the last we will see of Cal Weaver.
No Safe House (2014)
As a sequel to No Time for Goodbye, this book follows Terry Archer (the husband of Cynthia) and his family as they struggle to heal from the events of the first book. However, when their daughter gets in trouble with her boyfriend, the family finds themselves fighting to stay alive as they get caught in another web of murder and betrayal, as old faces and new faces reach at them from the shadows of the home they thought was safe.
No Safe House brings back some favorite characters and serves as a follow up that you won’t want to put down until the story comes to an end!
The Promise Falls Books (2015-2017)
There are plenty of books that reference the New York town of Promise Falls, but these books make the town a main character all its own, and they are all very interesting to read as each book delves more into the town’s secrets.
Broken Promise (2015)
As David Harwood deals with the death of both his newspaper business and his wife, he is forced to move back to his hometown of Paradise falls and encounters his cousin Marla… a woman who has suffered a miscarriage but who also is raising a baby that isn’t her own. When the baby’s real mother is found murdered, David investigates both the women in the child’s life, only to discover that there is more going on in Promise Falls than meets the eye.
Broken Promise tells a story of suspense, loyalty, and family as the sins of the town come to pass, and if you love the first book in the series you will love all the rest!
Far From True (2016)
Whenever a drive in movie theater screen collapses and kills four people, Private investigator Cal Weaver is put on the case, and is soon investigating a house of one of the victims where unsound activities and a break in have taken place. Meanwhile, a cop named Barry Duckworth is attempting to solve his own murders in Promise Falls, and the pair soon find themselves working together whenever more bodies turn up and the evil secrets of the town’s past threaten to collide with the present.
Far From True will have you questioning what is true as you race to finish the book!
The Twenty Three (2016)
Cal Weaver returns when dozens of people in Promise Falls fall dead from a flu like virus, and his investigation turns up a poisoned water supply and mass murder. Detective Barry Duckworth is also working the case, and learns that many of the strange events of the past May have all revolved around the number 23. As the two men work this case, they will find themselves closer to death as they try to solve the mystery of the number 23.
The Twenty Three will have you shuddering every time you see that number, and while you are reading the book too!
Parting Shot (2017)
Finally, the last book in the Promise Falls series sees Cal Weaver working to investigate the family accused of a local tragedy. It seems very simple, a young man got drunk, stole a car, and ran over a girl… and then doesn’t remember anything about the accident. As Cal accepts the job, he discovers that there’s more to that night than meets the eye, and someone might be seeking their own brand of justice for the murdered girl.
Parting Shot is a book that will make you think long and hard about the consequences of your actions, and what we will do to remember and to forget.
Chase (2017) & Escape (2018)
These next two books are Barclay’s first look into writing fiction books, and he does a very good job with them. In Chase 12 year old Jeff discovers a dog named Chipper in the woods, but this dog is designed to be the ultimate canine spy, filled to the brim with new tech. However, when the Institute attempts to terminate the project, Chipper escapes and finds his path colliding with Jeff as both of them go on the run.
In the sequel to Chase, Escape sees the pair of Jeff and Chipper continuing to run from the Institute, matching wits, bravery, and Chipper’s powers against the government organization. However, staying one step ahead is starting to become more and more dangerous, and the hunt is about to come to an end.
A Noise Downstairs (2018)
Whenever you hear a strange noise at night, it can cause some fear to occur. For Paul Davis, his noises are connected to the past. A past where he encountered a murderer and nearly lost his own life, and a past where he is still dealing with the mental ramifications in the present. When his wife buys him a typewriter and encourages him to take a break and work on his novel, Paul starts to hear the machine clicking its keys at night, and he’s the only one who can.
As he investigates the typewriter’s origins, he finds a connection to the killer who nearly killed him years ago, and discovers that the murders might not be over. However, there comes a point in the investigation where you can’t walk away anymore, and Paul might have crossed that line.
A Noise Downstairs is probably going to make you more paranoid of late night noises than you once were, but that doesn’t mean the read isn’t epic!
Elevator Pitch (2019)
Whenever multiple people experience tragic elevator accidents and deaths in New York, it quickly becomes apparent that someone is using elevators to commit murder, and also to advance their own agenda. With the tallest residential tower (with its own equally impressive elevator) about to be unveiled, two New York detectives and a journalist have to work together in order to solve the mystery and catch this criminal mastermind before he brings down the entire city.
Elevator Pitch might actually be the thing that gets you to take the stairs in the future, as this suspense thriller will shake you to the bone!
Find You First (2021)
As a massive tech millionaire, Miles Cookson is going to discover that the only thing his money can’t buy is time. He’s got a terminal illness that won’t just affect him, but also has a 50-50 chance of being passed down to his children. And since he donated sperm to a sperm bank, he’s got nine of them.
As he hunts for his children, he bumps into one of them, Chloe, who’s been hunting for her biological father. However, she’s the only one he can find, as the rest of his children are being hunted down, killed, and erased one by one. Miles and Chloe soon find themselves racing against both a killer and the ticking clock to solve the mystery, only they might not be fast enough.
Find You First will have you eagerly watching the clock as you read this novel!
Take Your Breath Away (2022)
When his wife Brie vanished without a trace while he was on a fishing trip, Andy Mason found himself the prime suspect in her disappearance and murder. As he dealt with the consequences of hitting rock bottom and losing his wife for six years, he finally put his life back together, moved away, and even found new love.
But when a woman shows up at his old address, ranting and bearing a resemblance to Brie, Andy finds that the case and old questions are reopened. After all, no one really knew what happened to Brie the day she vanished, and staying alive to find the answers might just be Andy’s biggest concern.
Take Your Breath Away might have you gasping for breath as you navigate the twists and turns of this novel!
Look Both Ways (2022)
This book is all about autonomous cars, and their presence on an island called Garret island. These cars are safe, 100% aware of one another, and can quickly take you from place to place with just a voice command. As Sandra Montrose seeks to get Arrival Inc ready for the public showcase of their new cars, she soon runs into problems.
A member of the media has vanished, the cars refuse to obey their owners, and then they begin to organize, hunt, and kill any human they encounter. Sandra and her team quickly find themselves matching wits with the killer cars, and they have to wonder… are the cars programmed to act this way, or do they have a mind of their own?
Look Both Ways probably isn’t the best book to read if you have any anxiety about cars or driving, but you will want to race to the end as you uncover the truth!
What Is The Best Reading Order For Linwood Barclay’s Books?
The best reading order is to read his series of books (The Zack Walker Books, The No Time For Goodbye books, The Promise Falls Books, and The Chase books) in order of publication as they feature the same characters and tell an interconnected story. Every other book is standalone and can be read as such.
Are Lindwood Barclay’s Children Books Good?
While it can always be a coin flip when an adult author decides to write books for kids or vice versa, Lindwood Barclay’s two children’s books have the same suspense, fast pacing, and thriller feel as his non fiction books. Perfect for all ages!
Who Are The Recurring Characters In Lindwood Barclay’s Books?
Perhaps the most prominent character is Cal Weaver, who shows up in four books (three alongside Detective Barry Duckworth), but David Harwood and the Archer family are recurring characters, as is the town of Promise Falls.
Do I Need To Read The Books In Order?
For the books that are in a complete series, you would benefit from reading them in order, because they have recurring characters and reference past events.
What Is The Best Linwood Barclay Book?
If you have to pick just one book, then pick No Time For Goodbye. It and its sequel are very very good reads and the best way to start out with Barclay’s books.