Les Edgerton's Reviews > Clouded Vision

Clouded Vision by Linwood Barclay
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it was amazing

Edgar Allan Poe invented the short story and Linwood Barclay carries on the tradition admirably with as good a tale as Poe himself might have created. Billed as a novella, it edges closer to the short story form, and, as such, was perfect.

The "trick" to creating a great suspense/mystery story is that the close reader is able to figure out the major turns just a sentence or two before the narrative delivers. This is one of the toughest things a writer can attempt to do. If the surprise is guessed at too soon, the reader regards it as unintelligent; if the reader is fooled always, he feels manipulated, as in those old O. Henry stories or Twilight Zone episodes, which is why they're no longer in vogue--no intelligent reader enjoys being manipulated. It's a balancing act that few writers are capable of pulling off--Barclay does and masterfully.

When the reader guesses correctly just before the twist is revealed, he subconsciously considers himself a pretty smart cookie. That's a reader, who by association with what he's just done, considers the writer equally smart and becomes a fan. If he's always surprised, that indicates a writer who's showing off and who doesn't really care about involving his reader. He's mostly concerned with showing how clever he is.

It's all in the timing. The reader who is disappointed at guessing the turns--even if just before they're revealed--is the kind of reader who reads solely on an entertainment and fairly superficial level. That's a person who mostly wants to be titillated and cares little about the literary quality. A person who reads most stories one time. Once they know what happens, they're off to another "entertainment." The stories by a writer such as Poe are read over and over. They don't appeal to the more superficial reader for the reasons stated above--once they know how it turns out they're onto something else. Nothing wrong with that--but that's a reader more of today than in older times when people read for more than just the entertainment value. Today, many want to go to the movie or read the book, find out what happened, and then that book is put away forever and that movie isn't viewed again.

This is a "Poe-quality" or "Chekhov-quality" story. One many readers will return to more than once. Even when we know the twists. It has that almost undefinable quality the best writing delivers.

And, that's why it deserves five stars and not four.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
July 4, 2011 – Shelved
July 4, 2011 – Finished Reading

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