MINM Review: A Noise Downstairs by Linwood Barclay

A twisty-turny mystery that includes a jaw-dropping about-face, new-to-Mystery in Minutes author Linwood Barclay's latest standalone novel, A Noise Downstairs, manages to be about so much more than its eye-catching cover image and title would imply.

In his book cover quote from a previous Barclay novel, Trust Your Eyes, Stephen King wrote, "My idea of a sweet ride is three days of rain, a fridge filled with snacks, and a new Linwood Barclay." Interestingly, much of the style and content of A Noise Downstairs reads like a (gore-free) homage to Mr. King.

On the surface, the plot of the book revolves around an old, Underwood typewriter, and how it relates to main character Paul Davis, a Connecticut college professor on sabbatical while recuperating from a near-death experience. But for this reader, the true subject matter of A Noise Downstairs is the human brain, and through the book's characters, Mr. Barclay's work examines a variety of brain differences, whether they be the result of traumatic brain injury, degenerative brain disease, or from chemical imbalances, to name just a few. Explored are injuries and ailments of the mind, both subtle and overt, nature versus nurture, as well as ideas such as certain types of psychopathies being treated with revulsion and rejection, while dementia, for instance, can often evoke great pathos and tenderness. Any reader who has dealt with emotional strain in response to behavioral changes within themselves or a loved one, as a result of brain differences, will find A Noise Downstairs to be highly relatable.

Is A Noise Downstairs entertaining? Yes. But.......readers should know that, other than the prologue, as much as the first seventy percent of this "sweet ride" is a very evenly-paced, becoming-invested-in-the-characters, "slow burn", and the novel doesn't become more action-driven until about the last 25-30 percent, at which time the reader is presented with a major twist in the tale. And then another! And another!

A Noise Downstairs is a cleverly-plotted, very twisty, and thought-provoking mystery with a resolution both satisfying and poignant, that will surely have this reviewer seeking out more of Canadian writer Linwood Barclay's crime fiction in the future!

A Noise Downstairs by Linwood Barclay book cover image.jpg

Best for Crime Fiction Readers:

  • Who enjoy domestic suspense.
  • Who appreciate thought-provoking, mainly character-driven crime fiction and mysteries.
  • Who enjoy, or don't mind, mysteries and crime fiction with supernatural, other-worldly elements.
  • Readers who have had direct experience with chemical or structural brain changes or differences within themselves or in others will find this story particularly relatable.

Pages: 368 (Hardcover)

Length: 9 Hrs. 9 Mins. (Audio Book)

Publisher's Blurb:

The New York Times bestselling author of No Time for Goodbye returns with a haunting psychological thriller that blends the twists and turns of Gillian Flynn with the driving suspense of Harlan Coben, in which a man is troubled by odd sounds for which there is no rational explanation.

College professor Paul Davis is a normal guy with a normal life. Until, driving along a deserted road late one night, he surprises a murderer disposing of a couple of bodies. That’s when Paul’s "normal" existence is turned upside down. After nearly losing his own life in that encounter, he finds himself battling PTSD, depression, and severe problems at work. His wife, Charlotte, desperate to cheer him up, brings home a vintage typewriter—complete with ink ribbons and heavy round keys—to encourage him to get started on that novel he’s always intended to write.

However, the typewriter itself is a problem. Paul swears it’s possessed and types by itself at night. But only Paul can hear the noise coming from downstairs; Charlotte doesn’t hear a thing. And she worries he’s going off the rails.

Paul believes the typewriter is somehow connected to the murderer he discovered nearly a year ago. The killer had made his victims type apologies to him before ending their lives. Has another sick twist of fate entwined his life with the killer—could this be the same machine? Increasingly tormented but determined to discover the truth and confront his nightmare, Paul begins investigating the deaths himself.

But that may not be the best thing to do. Maybe Paul should just take the typewriter back to where his wife found it. Maybe he should stop asking questions and simply walk away while he can. . . .

MINM Overall Rating: 4/5 Stars

If you've read other Linwood Barclay novels, which are your favorites? Is the pacing in A Noise Downstairs consistent with Mr. Barclay's other books? Mystery in Minutes would love to hear from you in the comments below!