Customer Reviews: Bad Move (Zack Walker Book 1)
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on July 5, 2004
Bad Move is a damn good read. Intricately plotted?fast-paced?and wickedly funny throughout. In Zach Walker, author Linwood Barclay has fashioned an everyman hero, aided and abetted by an utterly believable family of characters, in a story that smoothly escalates from situation comedy to gripping thriller in just over 300 pages. Without revealing too much, the book offers not one but two big payoffs?one that will have you laughing out loud and the other that neatly ties together all the loose ends?both highly satisfying in their way Let the booksellers decide whether to file Bad Move under Humor or Mystery ? fans of both genres will enjoy it immensely. Read it now before Hollywood options the film rights?and before the inevitable sequel arrives. it won't be soon enough.
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on March 30, 2009
I enjoyed this book. Sure, the circumstances which occur are fairly far-fetched and yes, often I wondered why the protagonist couldn't keep himself from doing things which clearly would have disastrous outcomes. But I also think that everyone knows someone who can't see what the obvious consequences of their actions are; actually, I'm sure we've all done this once in awhile. The protagonist in this novel compulsively brings this type of behavior to an art form unto itself which at times is amusing, at times pathetic and, sure, sometimes you'd like to reach into the book and shake him by his neck. For me, though, this was part of the entertainment factor of the book. There was something compelling me to watch this guy founder, flouder and fail.

This is light reading but it is entertaining; just remember, it isn't Proust or Sartre so if you're looking for something serious or particularly meaningful, take a pass. However, if you're in the mood for some silly escapism with a shot of schadenfreude, "Bad Move" is a book you should read.
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on June 6, 2004
Linwood Barclay is well known to Canadian readers by virtue of his Toronto Star newspaper column, as well as a number of nonfiction books he has published. BAD MOVE is his first work of fiction. It is a quirky yet appealing work with which a number of readers will identify, undoubtedly making Barclay a well-known commodity on this side of the border as well.
BAD MOVE defies easy categorization, and bless Barclay for that. It is a mystery, yes, but there is a vein of humor that runs wide and deep through it. I was put in the mind of Donald Westlake in more than a couple of spots, although Barclay seems to have wanted to write a gently cautionary tale as well; if he did, he has succeeded.
The Walker family is living in the big city and finds that their comfortable neighborhood is falling, falling down before their eyes. Drug dealers plying their trade, punks on the street corners, hookers on the streets ... things are simply not as they were.
Zack Walker, husband and father to his ungrateful and unappreciative family, is a science fiction writer of some minor renown who seems to spend more time off of the keyboard than on it. Walker is a bit of a safety and security freak, in a family of devil-may cares. He has some insight into his extremes. I was somewhat unsettled to discover him playing tricks on his family to make them observe some basic security rules (locking the door, keeping objects off of the stairs) that I have done with my own family.
Walker, fed up with the deterioration of his neighborhood, gets the idea to move to the suburbs. His wife is initially against it, but after a trip to Valley Forest Estates in the town of Oakwood she is eventually won over (the item that tips her over favoring the move had me howling and is all too true). The Walkers pack up and move. Everything seems to be placid and quiet (and, to the children, maybe a little too quiet), the perfect balm for the afflictions that caused the Walkers to leave in the first place. Except that ... it's not. The builder does not seem interested in complying with the warranty, the family can't eat those great cannolis they used to get in their own neighborhood --- and then, there's the dead body.
Walker, while out for a morning walk, discovers a local tree-hugging activist dead under very suspicious circumstances, made all the more suspicious due to the fact that he and the local developer were often literally at each other's throats. When yet another safety trick of Walker's backfires very dramatically on him, he finds that in the short course of an afternoon and evening he has placed his family in greater danger than they faced in their former urban environs. The law of unintended consequences is in full bore here, as Walker races against time and the bad guys to save his family from a danger he has unleashed upon himself and them.
While parts of BAD MOVE are hilarious, it is by turns very grim and graphic as well. Not every reader is going to be able to make the jump back and forth. It would be worth your while to try, however. Barclay has a keen grasp of the life in the subdivisions, as is demonstrated by the cast of characters he has created and presented in BAD MOVE. Barclay also very neatly saves a plot twist for the near end of the book; I never saw it coming and was delighted when it did. Barclay additionally does a fine job of laying on the irony, making for a most satisfactory novel.
While BAD MOVE may be Barclay's first foray into fiction, it hopefully will not be his last. Barclay demonstrates a fine and steady hand, as well as keen insight into and a canny knowledge of his subject matter, combining those elements with an extremely readable writing style and a highly imaginative yet credible plot. You can't ask for any more than that.
--- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub
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on June 20, 2016
I think this is Barclay's first novel, and I can honestly say he's come a long way. This book was all over the place, jumping the shark with unbelievability. This book is the start of a series based on the same character, and the series does get much better, but I have to say I'm glad I read the others first or I might not have gotten much further with his work!
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on August 12, 2012
BAD MOVE started off way too slow. Normally, I'd stop reading a book like this after the first chapter. But this was the debut novel of a currently successful author with a following, and it was published by Bantam, no less.

So my curiosity was piqued.

His prose is very good, but a bit too wordy for my taste. He doesn't lose himself in unnecessary descriptions, but when I'm reading a boring passage and it's not immediately clear to me why this has to be in the book, I tend to think of what other things I could be doing with the precious little free time I have. I forgive the occasional dull bits if they are written by the hand of Stephen King or Dean Koontz because I've read enough by them to trust that it will be worth my while in the end.

Some new authors, like Linwood Barclay when he wrote BAD MOVE, tend to assume they have that trust, and they lose momentum in the beginning of the book building background, when they should be making the reader go from curious to addicted in the space of a few paragraphs or the first chapter at most.

I stayed at curious throughout the beginning. Not curious because of the story, but curious because I wanted to know how Linwood Barclay managed to get such a slow paced book published.

Finally, midway through, the book started working like a page-turner should. At that point, I ended up reading non-stop, like I usually do with books that I really enjoy.

I was also impressed by the editing. I had one objection to the use of the word "further" which I believe should be used to portray metaphorical distance, but in this case was used to describe physical distance instead. Other than that, I didn't spot a single typo or misplaced comma.

(I'm not a stickler for faultless writing but lately I've noticed more and more typos popping up in novels. Even in some of the more recent books by bestselling authors like Harlan Coben.)

In the end, BAD MOVE won me over (though I can't give this book five stars because of the slow beginning) and I'm going to buy the next book, BAD GUYS, right now. If I like it, who knows, I might even become a Linwood Barclay fan.
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on December 5, 2014
I've read later Linwood Barclay books that I enjoyed more, but nevertheless this was fun. The hero is at least as much bumbling incompetent as hero, but that's what made it so fun. Among all the "bad moves" there was one in the middle of the book that was so stupid I almost put the book down. But I went on and I'm glad I did. Don't try to read this one critically, it's just pure entertainment. There are some very smart twists late in the book harkening back to earlier clues.
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on September 7, 2015
Sorry but I didn't like the book. It was so wordy and went no where fast. I read about 1/3 of it and quit. I thought this would be funny as well as suspenseful, I was wrong. Now I have to look for a new author. Darn it.
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on December 21, 2014
This is slapstick humor - so you will enjoy it or not depending on how much you like slapstick. There is plenty of humorous social commentary thrown in. The book is a bit on the long side, which is especially difficult for this kind of mad-cap humor. The other reviews will supply more details.
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on September 24, 2006
The cover states "If Dave Barry wrote mystery, it would be something like Barclay's Bad Move." Which is true, because as I read it I was reminded of Dave Barry's mysteries, which apparently the writers of the blurb didn't realize Barry wrote - though I'd call both this one and Barry's books "criminal capers." However, as a Dad with (so my kids say) a little bit of the central character's tendencies in me, I found Barclay's Bad Move even better than Barry's work. This is a very funny book, enough so that when I read this back in April, '06, I ordered the hardback of the second novel, Bad Guys, without waiting for it's soon-released paperback version. The story centers around Zack Walker, a married father of two, whose attempts at life's lessons to his family tend to . . . go awry. Throw in a few fellows of criminal intent, and you have a great story.
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on March 23, 2014
At first, the story dragged a bit, but after a few chapters it was smooth sailing and I couldn't put it down. Yes, it's far-fetched (that's why it's called fiction). But it was funny and entertaining and at times that's all I want from a book. I've already started the 2nd "Zack Walker" book (Bad Guys) and that one is starting out even better than this book. Will definitely look for more from this author.
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