In his latest novel No Safe House, Linwood Barclay returns to the Archer family , who first appeared in the No.1 bestselling novel No Time for Goodbye, Here he explains what drew him back to them again.
Readers must think I really have it in for the Archers
Didn’t I do enough to them back in 2009, in No Time for Goodbye? As you may recall, Cynthia Archer, twenty-five years after her entire family went missing, finally got the answers to what happened. But those answers came at a high price. She nearly lost her life. Her husband Terry and seven-year-old daughter Grace also came close to getting killed.
Why, seven years later, put the Archers through hell again in the novel No Safe House?
I had my reasons.
The first was that so often in thrillers, when something devastating happens to a set of characters, by the end of the book, once everything’s been sorted out and the mystery has been solved, everyone skips happily off into the sunset.
That’s never struck me as very realistic.
The whole notion of ‘closure’ is a huge cliché. There are some things people never get over.
I felt that what the Archers had gone through was so traumatising, the ripples would be felt for years to come.
What might it be like in the Archer household, I wondered, when Grace became fourteen, the same age Cynthia was when her mother, father and brother disappeared? I imagined Cynthia being, with reason, the most anxiety-riddled, overprotective mother ever. Cynthia remembered the kind of teenager she was, the risks she took, the bad decisions she made. She’d want to do everything possible to ensure that Grace would not make those same mistakes.
But there’s that law of unintended consequence: the more you set out to achieve one result, the more likely you are to get the opposite.
I believed Cynthia’s attempts to control Grace would have the effect of pushing her away. Grace starts hanging out with a bad boy, just as Cynthia did years ago. And before long, when her boyfriend persuades her to break into an abandoned house, Grace finds herself in some very deep trouble.
Another reason I wanted to go back to No Time for Goodbye was to write more about two of its minor characters. There was Vince, the thug who helps Terry find Cynthia near the end of the book, and Vince’s stepdaughter Jane, who was one of Terry’s students at the high school where he taught. Many readers told me they wanted to know more about those two. I knew if I ever did write a follow-up novel, Vince and Jane would figure prominently.
Although he might have done a good thing helping Terry in No Time for Goodbye, it’s really not in Vince’s nature to be altruistic. He is a very dangerous man, and the trouble Grace stumbles into draws her entire family into Vince’s world.
There was one final reason I wanted to go back to the Archers seven years later: I had a hell of a story I wanted to tell.
But this is definitely the last time I will do anything bad to Cynthia, Terry and Grace. It would be unthinkable to put them through the wringer again.
Unless, of course, I get another really good idea.