Thomas Kilbride is a map-obsessed schizophrenic so affected that he rarely leaves the self-imposed bastion of his bedroom. But with a computer program called Whirl360.com, he travels the world while never so much as stepping out the door. He pores over and memorizes the streets of the world. He examines every address, as well as the people who are frozen in time on his computer screen. Then he sees something that anyone else might have stumbled upon - but has not - in a street view of downtown New York City: an image in a window. An image that looks like a woman being murdered. Thomas's brother, Ray, takes care of him, cooking for him, dealing with the outside world on his behalf, and listening to his intricate and increasingly paranoid theories. When Thomas tells Ray what he has seen, Ray humors him with a half-hearted investigation. But Ray soon realizes he and his brother have stumbled onto a deadly conspiracy. And now they are in the crosshairs.
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"Rear Window" meets "Rain Man" in this longish thriller from Linwood Barclay, a writer you'd never mistake for a Canadian humorist, which is how Barclay earned his living before taking to penning suspense fiction. Even though it's a long book, I hated for it to end -- there were plot twists up to the very last page. Some I saw coming, most I didn't, but whatever, this is one of those books where there's simply no place to stop listening -- plus you know, as you get to the final hours, that whatever you decide to listen to next won't be half as good.
The plot is too complex to do a decent summary, but it all starts when Thomas Kilbride, a schizophrenic savant (I made that up -- is there such a thing?) who is "simple" in many ways -- a can opener confounds him, while he regularly holds meaningful conversations with Bill Clinton and assorted CIA operatives -- but who has an incredible ability to memorize details of maps, and of what he sees when he roams the world, all via a computer program comparable to Google Street. Without leaving his room, Thomas' goal is to memorize the entire world, and he's well on his way, every street detail of "most" major cities in his head, when he sees something odd in a window while computer-cruising a New York neighborhood. Is that a head in that window up there? With a plastic bag over it? Why would somebody be in the window with a plastic bag over their head?
Thomas convinces his brother Ray, a magazine illustrator who came home following their father's death, to go to New York to check it out. Sometimes, Ray thinks, it's just easier to do what Thomas wants, because when Thomas gets obsessed about something, he never gives up. Never.
What Ray finds out in his visit opens the door to the whole complex story, managed so awfully well by Barclay, as he moves from one story line to another, leaving you hanging at just the right moment each time. Turn the iPod off now? You've got to be kidding.... Not until you find out what happened....
All the way through, it's an excruciating cliff hanger. I have not one word of criticism, not a single suggestion for anything that would have made it better -- except that I wish it had never ended.
Well, okay, the narration is a little odd. Why two narrators? This story didn't call for it any more than any other book. It was fine -- just odd. I have to admit that not until I finished the book did I go back to see which narrator was reading which part. The dueling narrators thing doesn't detract from the book, but it doesn't add anything to it either. Go figure.
Whatever, don't miss this one. Just plan on not being able to quit listening once you start.
STORY (mystery) - I really loved this book. Thomas, a schizophrenic who spends his time memorizing maps on an ap called World360, thinks he sees the frozen image of a woman being suffocated in the window of a New York hi-rise. He and his brother, Ray, investigate. There's so much that happens in this story and so many unexpected surprises that I can't possibly give it justice in this review. Aside from the image of the woman with the plastic bag over her head, there are a couple other mysteries which are equally exciting as they unravel. The plot is complicated but not hard to follow, so you don't have to wear a thinking cap to enjoy it. Also, the author manages to inject a bit of humor occasionally. Great stuff!
PERFORMANCE - Good job, but I reserve five stars for stellar multi-voice performances. This reader does a great old woman's voice.
OVERALL - Highly recommended for all mature listeners. There's some profanity and references to sexual acts and lesbianism, though there are no actual sex "scenes" in the book. There is also occasional violence.