Look Both Ways by Linwood Barclay

As per my usual form, this is actually the first book that I have read by Linwood Barclay, but what a fun way to start with a new author. I picked this up on a whim during a weekly shop but I’m so glad that I did. Here’s what it’s all about:

Source: Owned Copy
Release Date: 03 February 2023
Publisher: HQ

About the Book

They think as one. They act as one. They kill as one.

‘Look Both Ways is devilishly good – exciting, thrilling – Barclay at his best!’ SHARI LAPENA, No. 1 internationally bestselling author

The residents of Garrett Island are part of a ground-breaking experiment. For a month, their cars will be replaced by self-driving vehicles – voice-controlled, comfortable and safe.

Single mum Sandra is prepping for the huge media event, and she’s ready for a driverless future. Widowed after her husband fell asleep at the wheel, she’s relieved that her kids may never need to drive themselves.

But as the day gets underway, disaster strikes. A journalist vanishes, possibly murdered. And before long, it’s clear something is very wrong. The cars are no longer taking orders from their passengers. They’re starting to organise. They’re starting to hunt. And they’ve got the residents of Garret Island in their sights.

From the Sunday Times Number One bestseller Linwood Barclay comes a breakneck new thriller, Look Both Ways.

My Thoughts

Well… This was a fun read. Fun in the way that any story of cars terrorising and attempting to mow down an entire island population can be, of course. Twisted, inventive, attention grabbing, wry smiling fun. It’s really hard to describe without going into too much detail, but think Christine meets Maximum Overdrive. Think early Stephen King if he’d been warped enough to have also dreamed up Elon Musk. Okay, no-one is that warped, but at least Mr Barclay had real life to draw upon so we don’t have to worry too much about his devilish intent. Although, to be fair to the Grand Poobah of Narcissists, even he has spoken out against the continued development of AI. And if that’s not enough to worry you, perhaps this book will …

It is, in a few words, a bit bonkers, but, sadly, also a bit believable. The bid to become the world leading (or only) supplier of autonomous vehicles takes a decidedly deadly turn. From an opening chapter that, whilst initially harmless and perhaps a touch humorous, soon turns very dark, it really isn’t long at all before the story takes a very twisted turn. Okay, so it’s not necessarily natural progression from uber helpful, self driving cars to pack mentality killing machines, there is a little less than divine intervention there. But whilst (possibly) exaggerated for dramatic, and horrific, effect, what comes to pass has an air of worrying plausibility about it. Because, one of the greatest threats to our increasingly online life, has to be that of cyber security and cyber terrorism. Imagine that for a moment, but on a very grand and not entirely contained scale.

I actually found this a very entertaining read. If you have come looking for a straight up, psychological thriller, then this really won’t be the book for you. This is a story of industrial sabotage, greed, revenge and so much more, with antagonists of both biped and four wheel kind. The action centres largely around a mother and her two children, and the people that surround them, both friend and foe. I actually liked Sandra, trying to make the most of an amazing opportunity that goes spectacularly wrong. She is a strong personality, and fierce as hell when it comes to protecting her kids. As for the children, Katie and Archie, they are both surprisingly resilient, which is what drew me towards the Maximum Overdrive comparison. As for the rest of the cast, from good to bad, we have a broad mix of well thought out characters who add to the tension and have you both rooting for, and against them at any given time.

Bare I mind that no-one is off limits when it comes to the carnage – when trying to reason with artificial intelligence that only knows to ‘do harm’, then anyone and everything, will be in the firing line if danger is sensed. There is a scene down upon the docks which made me chuckle, and a few other moments when the author really captured the hunting mentality of a wolf pack, moments that brought forth a wry smile. Yes, this is a kind of part sci-fi novel. Yes, the conclusion of the action was to be expected, in part, because there is one fatal flaw built into automated mobile system, no matter what it is. That doesn’t mean that Linwood Barclay didn’t drop in one almighty twist towards the end, and the tension was maintained to the last.

The moral of the story – not all technological advancement is good, and if your Uber doesn’t at the very least come with a flesh and blood driver, you may want to think twice about getting in the car … Fun, thrilling, and yes, slightly bonkers escapism. Recommended.

About the Author

Linwood Barclay is an international bestselling crime and thriller author with over twenty critically acclaimed novels to his name, including the phenomenal number one bestseller No Time For Goodbye. Every Linwood Barclay book is a masterclass in characterisation, plot and the killer twist, and with sales of over seven million copies globally, his books have been sold in more than 39 countries around the world and he can count Stephen King, Shari Lapena and Peter James among his many fans.
Many of his books have been optioned for film and TV, and Linwood wrote the screenplay for the film based on his bestselling novel Never Saw It Coming. Born in the US, his parents moved to Canada just as he was turning four, and he’s lived there ever since. He lives in Toronto with his wife, Neetha. They have two grown children.

2 thoughts on “Look Both Ways by Linwood Barclay

  1. I just listened to this one last week, and it cemented my decision that I will NOT ever buy a self-driving vehicle. The scary thing is that as AI is becoming more commonplace, this could happen, Ahhhhh. I agree, I sat back and enjoyed it like I did those movies where the robots tried to take over the world in the past. It is a hang on to your hat story for sure. Wonderful review, Jen.

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    1. Thank you. Totally agree. I feel much safer with a REAL person in charge of the wheel (mostly – the odd exception). Completely mad at times but thoroughly entertaining. Loved the dock scene. Really made me chuckle.

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