Skip to main content

Bad Move


Bad Move

Linwood Barclay is well known to Canadian readers by virtue of his
Toronto Star newspaper column, as well as a number of
nonfiction books he has published. BAD MOVE is his first work of
fiction. It is a quirky yet appealing work with which a number of
readers will identify, undoubtedly making Barclay a well-known
commodity on this side of the border as well.

BAD MOVE defies easy categorization, and bless Barclay for that. It
is a mystery, yes, but there is a vein of humor that runs wide and
deep through it. I was put in the mind of Donald Westlake in more
than a couple of spots, although Barclay seems to have wanted to
write a gently cautionary tale as well; if he did, he has

The Walker family is living in the big city and finds that their
comfortable neighborhood is falling, falling down before their
eyes. Drug dealers plying their trade, punks on the street corners,
hookers on the streets ... things are simply not as they

Zack Walker, husband and father to his ungrateful and
unappreciative family, is a science fiction writer of some minor
renown who seems to spend more time off of the keyboard than on it.
Walker is a bit of a safety and security freak, in a family of
devil-may cares. He has some insight into his extremes. I was
somewhat unsettled to discover him playing tricks on his family to
make them observe some basic security rules (locking the door,
keeping objects off of the stairs) that I have done with my own

Walker, fed up with the deterioration of his neighborhood, gets the
idea to move to the suburbs. His wife is initially against it, but
after a trip to Valley Forest Estates in the town of Oakwood she is
eventually won over (the item that tips her over favoring the move
had me howling and is all too true). The Walkers pack up and move.
Everything seems to be placid and quiet (and, to the children,
maybe a little too quiet), the perfect balm for the afflictions
that caused the Walkers to leave in the first place. Except that
... it's not. The builder does not seem interested in complying
with the warranty, the family can't eat those great cannolis they
used to get in their own neighborhood --- and then, there's the
dead body.

Walker, while out for a morning walk, discovers a local
tree-hugging activist dead under very suspicious circumstances,
made all the more suspicious due to the fact that he and the local
developer were often literally at each other's throats. When yet
another safety trick of Walker's backfires very dramatically on
him, he finds that in the short course of an afternoon and evening
he has placed his family in greater danger than they faced in their
former urban environs. The law of unintended consequences is in
full bore here, as Walker races against time and the bad guys to
save his family from a danger he has unleashed upon himself and

While parts of BAD MOVE are hilarious, it is by turns very grim and
graphic as well. Not every reader is going to be able to make the
jump back and forth. It would be worth your while to try, however.
Barclay has a keen grasp of the life in the subdivisions, as is
demonstrated by the cast of characters he has created and presented
in BAD MOVE. Barclay also very neatly saves a plot twist for the
near end of the book; I never saw it coming and was delighted when
it did. Barclay additionally does a fine job of laying on the
irony, making for a most satisfactory novel.

While BAD MOVE may be Barclay's first foray into fiction, it
hopefully will not be his last. Barclay demonstrates a fine and
steady hand, as well as keen insight into and a canny knowledge of
his subject matter, combining those elements with an extremely
readable writing style and a highly imaginative yet credible plot.
You can't ask for any more than that.


Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 22, 2010

Bad Move
by Linwood Barclay

  • Publication Date: April 26, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam
  • ISBN-10: 0553587048
  • ISBN-13: 9780553587043