If you find the sort of winning formula Linwood Barclay has hit upon, why change anything? In his previous two standalone novels, No Time to Say Goodbye and Too Close to Home, has all but perfected the "bad things happen to regular Joe" genre of mystery fiction, applying an easy writing style and a gift for narrative to an increasingly popular format.
None of which is meant to imply that writing such stories is as simple as working out x + y = xy. Far from it. To pull these novels off a writer needs to be a master some of writing's most difficult arts: delivering a succession of convincing plot twists; maintaining high tension over several hundred pages; writing sympathetic and preferably likable characters there is often little opportunity to develop before the bomb goes off.
Linwood Barclay is very good at all of these, as he has proved yet again in Fear The Worst. Here the 'regular Joe' is car salesman Tim Blake. a man struggling to put a failed marriage behind him, deal with his prickly seventeen-year-old daughter being under his roof while at the same time shifting Hondas at a rate that will keep his unsympathetic boss of his back.
As if life were not tough enough for Tim, what with the recession killing the automotive industry and his wife hooking up with a more successful competitor with a line in cheesy advertising, his daughter Sydney does not return from her job at a hotel one evening. When Tim investigates he finds that nobody at the hotel has even heard of Sydney. She has disappeared without a trace. Give police attitudes to missing persons of a certain age, Tim is forced to search for Sydney himself and quickly finds that he is not the only person looking.
This is another fine page turner from Barclay who sets a tight plot off with some welcome humour. And a memorable scene featuring a multi-vehicle pile up in a car showroom is worth the RRP alone.