Pan | 2019 (31 October) | 464p | Review copy | Buy the book
Tom and Rachel are grieving for the loss of their teenage son, Michael, who crashed his father’s car into a tree some months ago, killing himself and his girlfriend. Tom and Rachel aren’t coping with it well and now their younger daughter Holly has been hurt in a violent mugging in London. They need to get away and look after each other, maybe Tom and Rachel will even be able to patch their marriage back together. Tom’s boss offers them the use of his luxury lodge in a secluded part of Scotland. It’s just what they need. Until the first night. They hear a noise downstairs. Men have broken in and they have much more than robbery on their minds. What will Tom do to keep his family alive?
A Window Breaks has such a thrilling premise and it fully delivers on it. This is a thoroughly exciting book, mostly set over just a few hours, and we spend every minute of it with this terrified family. It’s told in Tom’s words, which makes the tension even more immediate and real as we scramble over walls, along roofs, in confined spaces, through woods, in water, over every inch of this remote estate where there are no phone signals, no internet, just a gate that doesn’t open, a car that doesn’t go. It’s breathless. And the men who hunt them are relentless.
The location, both inside the lodge and outside, is excellent. Tom and Rachel are strangers here. They don’t know where to go. They have to try anything they can. It’s also mostly set at night. They can hide in the darkness but it also hides traps.
There is another story that threads its way through the novel, that of the son Michael and the crash that killed him and his girlfriend. It doesn’t take up much of the novel, which I did appreciate because I don’t think it’s as successful as the rest of the thriller. It moves back and forward, it’s confused. It does have significance for the novel’s story but fortunately it doesn’t disrupt it too much.
Otherwise, A Window Breaks is a hugely successful thriller and one that I had a great deal of trouble putting down. There’s a deceptively slow start but then it explodes! And it keeps on exploding all the way to its clever conclusion. Excellent!
To help celebrate the publication of A Window Breaks on 31 October, I’m delighted to post an extract from the novel below – and it’s a goodie…..
Rachel shook my shoulder.
‘Tom, wake up.’ She whispered, close to my ear: ‘I think I heard something.’
I groaned and mashed my face into my pillow.
‘Tom, it sounded like a window breaking. I think there’s someone downstairs.’
I groaned some more. Rachel is a light sleeper. She hears bumps in the night. And I’m the one she’s turned to – again and again – to get out of bed and creep downstairs to investigate.
It was warm and fuggy under the covers – my legs were tangled in Rachel’s legs – and I could so easily drift off again. I could hear the hitch of fear in Rachel’s voice but it wasn’t quite enough to tug me back to full consciousness.
Then a vague distant noise made me stir. It could have been the sound of glass crunching underfoot.
My heart clenched as Rachel yanked on my upper arm. ‘Tom? Wake up. Please.’
Eyes open, listening hard.
The room was black. The only light was the faint glow of my wristwatch. It was just after 2 a.m.
Another slight crunching sound.
I blinked and stared into the pulsing darkness as a great sucking fear invaded my chest. In my mind I was watching a kind of home movie rendered in fuzzy greyscale. I was picturing a long, uninterrupted tracking shot – the visual equivalent of the auditory hunt I was carrying out with my ears. The camera in my mind’s eye went snuffling across the carpet and out of the bedroom door. It sped low along the unlit hallway, sweeping left and right in small, tight arcs, like a bloodhound following a scent. When the camera reached the mezzanine it pitched up and then down over the polished steel banister rail overlooking the vaulted space below. It dropped on a wire, spinning and sweeping, sniffing out the source of the gritty crunching I had heard.
‘I’m scared, Tom.’ ‘Shh.’
Was that the whisper of the sliding glass door on to the deck being pulled back? And now the dull thud of the door hitting the rubber buffer?
Rachel clutched my arm again. I didn’t have any clothes on under the covers. And all right, it shouldn’t have been a big deal right then, but it’s amazing how being naked can make you feel more vulnerable.
Silence. I waited.
My heart jackhammered in my chest, pushing me up off the mattress. Rachel’s fingers dug into my flesh.
The silence persisted, but this was no natural hush. It felt loaded. Felt forced. Like somebody was holding their breath downstairs.
I was listening so intensely it was as if I could hear the throbbing of the very air itself – the sound of millions of tiny molecules rubbing and vibrating against one another. It was a sound like no other. The sound of pure fear in the middle of the night.