I read Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay in a place far far away from any kind of elevator. I was staying in a cabin in Northern Ontario, dodging mosquitoes but blissfully distant from any and all high rises. Barclay’s name is well known to me, as I’ve read previous books by him AND listened to my parents read aloud his Toronto Star columns when I was a kid. Somehow, he’s dodged the decline of print journalism and entered an even more competitive field; novel writing. And yet, he’s done extremely well in this late-life career change, selling millions of copies of books and having over 18 titles to his name. His latest is about the anxiety-inducing world of elevators in tall buildings, and although I don’t generally have a phobia about riding in them, this book will definitely cross my mind the next time I step into one.
Elevator Pitch reads like a mash-up of two popular genres; thriller and police procedural. We meet Detective Jerry Bourque, investigating the murder of a man who had all his fingertips cut off. Barbara Matheson is the journalist devoted to reporting on all the mishaps of the mayor of New York City, her loyal readership making her one of the city’s most-read woman in print, masking the difficult personal life she avoids at all costs. Eugene Clement is the leader of an alt-right group over-zealously dedicated to raising awareness of the rural American population that are being ‘overshadowed’ by the rising liberals on each coastline, and while getting to know all these different characters, each day of this particular week sees a new elevator-related death in New York City.
The back and forth between all these characters is what makes this such a great read. Barclay is careful to give us enough distinguishing information to keep everyone straight, but not too much that we feel one person is getting unequal treatment over another. They are all very different, coming from various backgrounds that make their perspectives unique and interesting to all types of readers. My favourite character is Barbara because her wit crackles through her chapters; she’s independent, tough and happy to go toe-to-toe with anyone in the city. This is one of the few books that I can recall feeling satisfied with the characterization of both genders equally; it’s something I’m becoming more sensitive to the wider I read, and Barclay has done an admirable job of writing in both the male and female perspective. Each chapter, regardless of perspective, rang true AND held my attention, not an easy feat these days.
The plotting was well done too; instead of guessing the ‘baddie’ by the middle of the novel, the villain came out of nowhere for me, and the red herrings that were included were extremely subtle, so I was tricked into thinking I had it figured out when I clearly did not. Each character was trying to work their way towards the solution as well: who was orchestrating these horrific and devious elevator killings? As the body count rose, people’s theories grew even more outlandish, but because we had a journalist, a police detective, and a municipal employee all working towards finding the killer, the reader could pick from a number of strategies being utilized. Being a mystery/thriller lover comes with its downsides because it becomes harder and harder to be surprised as I work my way through the latest in this genre, but this author clearly has a significant amount of creativity left in him. For those wanting to hitch their ride to a thriller writer with a full list of readable titles in their future, I’d highly recommend Linwood Barclay.
I actually didn’t realize that Linwood Barclay was a relatively recent addition to thrillers. He’s so prolific I thought he’d been doing this for a while. Our town only has one public elevator so this is unlikely to spark much phobia in me, I think!
yes, he’s prolific bc he writes one book a year. Crazy!
He writes kids books too! In the bookstore today, I kept spotting him!
Ah yes, I think I heard his interview with Shelagh Rogers about that. Guy is busy that’s for sure.
I fell out with Linwood Barclay after reading my first of his books only to reach the end and find… a cliffhanger ending! I was so furious I swore I’d never read the follow-up. Hahaha – I’m much calmer now though, and have to admit this sounds great! If you promise me it doesn’t have a cliffhanger ending then I may withdraw my oath and add this to my wishlist… 😂
Last two books I read-no cliffhanger ending!
Sounds good! But slightly terrifying!
Oh look! I can comment!
I love being friends with the same bloggers for a long time because I can see how their reading has changed. In this case, you noticed how women and men are written in the hands of a male author, and I love that that is something you’re thinking about when you write your reviews. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person harping on this topic. <3
I think you are a big reason I think about this stuff now, which is one reason why I love your blog. 🙂
You feel that weird squeeze around your middle? That’s me hugging you in my head. Okay, I’m weird, shut up, I love you.
I had no idea you’re a Barclay superfan. I’m very fond of his work as well. And especially the way that he depicts female characters (I remember hearing his Proust Questionnaire on CBC and how fondly he spoke of his wife!) which is why I recommend him so often too.
Have you even read that older series, the first series? I keep meaning to go back to them but I haven’t yet (Bad…something? I think the main character’s name is Zack, or maybe I’m muddling all this up!)
Ok I’ll admit I’m not Barclay superfan, I’ve only read two or three of his books, but I’m not surprised he had lovely responses to his Proust Questionnaire, I’ve heard he’s an extremely kind person! So, makes sense he depicts women so well 🙂