Bad Move

( 36 )

Overview

In the too-quiet town of Oakwood, only the lucky die of boredom…and new homeowner Zack Walker isn’t feeling lucky. Whoever said the burbs were boring will think twice after reading Linwood Barclay’s hilarious debut mystery, in which Dad learns the hard way that he doesn’t always know best.

Zack wouldn’t blame you for thinking he’s safety-obsessed. True, he masterminded a plot to trade his family’s exciting city lifestyle for one of suburban tranquillity. True, even after this ...

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Overview

In the too-quiet town of Oakwood, only the lucky die of boredom…and new homeowner Zack Walker isn’t feeling lucky. Whoever said the burbs were boring will think twice after reading Linwood Barclay’s hilarious debut mystery, in which Dad learns the hard way that he doesn’t always know best.

Zack wouldn’t blame you for thinking he’s safety-obsessed. True, he masterminded a plot to trade his family’s exciting city lifestyle for one of suburban tranquillity. True, even after this strategic move, Zack still has issues with family members who forget their keys in the front door, leave their cars unlocked, or park their backpacks at the top of the stairs—where you could kill yourself tripping over them. Just ask his wife, Sarah, or his teenage kids, Paul and Angie, who endure their share of lectures.

Zack knows that he needs to chill out and assume the best for once—but we know what happens to those who assume.

When Zack realizes their two-faced developer sent a petty thief to fix their leaky shower, he starts fighting hard to ignore the fact that Oakwood isn’t the crime-free paradise he was hoping for. But his brief state of denial comes to an abrupt end when, during a walk by the creek, he stumbles across a dead body. Even more shocking, Zack actually knows who the victim is—and who might want him dead.

With a killer roaming around their neighborhood and Zack’s overactive imagination in overdrive, he’s sure things can’t get any worse. But then another local is murdered—and Zack’s paranoid tendencies get him implicated in the crime. While his wife is trying to remember why she married him in the first place, and his kids are considering whether it’s time to have him committed, Zack decides there’s only one thing he can do. To protect his family—and avoid being busted for a crime he didn’t commit—he’s going to have to override his safety-first instincts, tap into his delusions of machismo, and track down the killer himself.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
When obsessively safety-conscious science fiction writer Zack Walker finds a body face down in a local creek, the hapless new homeowner worries that he's forced his family to trade in the known risks of life in the big city for unsuspected suburban dangers. Then things go from bad to worse, as a misguided attempt to make his wife more savvy about security backfires big-time. Soon the amateur detective finds himself facing matters far more distressing than trying to get developers to make repairs, or learning to live without a decent cannoli, or discovering the strange enterprises of his new neighbors. Zack never imagined that he'd be the one to put his whole family in danger and drag friends and strangers into a deadly mess. It's starting to look like relocating to the quiet town of Oakwood was a really, really Bad Move. Sue Stone
From the Publisher
"Humorous ... Fast-Paced.... the suburbs turn out to be no guarantee of personal safety."
--Booklist

Praise for Last Resort:

"Last Resort is a moving, bittersweet and naturally funny memoir of a young man's coming of age."
--London Free Press

"Engaging...Barclay writes with admirable openness about his dysfunctional family."
--Maclean's

"Barclay's straightforward and unadorned prose...lets him subtly convey the crazy-quilt way that life happens: teenage fun bumps into grownup sadness, loved ones can turn troubled or troubling...Barclay's style may seem simple, but the effects he achieves are anything but."
--January Magazine

"[Barclay] manages to capture something elusive; the magical, almost ineffable wonder of childhood, where the sense of freedom offered by a nine-horsepower boat, a summer romance or the first serious conversation with an adult offers a promise of life which one rarely shakes off in later years."
--National Post?

From the Hardcover edition.

Publishers Weekly
Riotously funny and irreverent, Canadian journalist Barclay's mystery debut is a rollicking good read. When Zack Walker, a sometimes cranky and always paranoid science fiction writer, moves with his family from the city to Valley Forest Estates, he soon finds that life in the suburbs can be dangerous, even deadly. Envious of a childhood friend who once found a drowning victim, Zack gets his wish and stumbles across the body of Samuel Spender, a zealous conservationist who'd been trying to prevent the final phase of Valley Forest's construction around the habitat of a rare salamander. In his campaign, Spender made several enemies, including the subdivision's sales manager, Don Greenway. Zack, who witnessed a heated argument between Spender and Greenway the day the conservationist died, is soon neck-deep in trouble when he finds a second body, a cache of cash and a canister of undeveloped film. Murder, blackmail and extortion are just the tip of the iceberg, as Zack realizes some very nasty people want what he has and will stop at nothing to get it. While Zack is an amazingly flawed hero, he's a breath of fresh air with no illusions about his odd compulsions and his limited abilities. His often exasperated wife Sarah makes the perfect comic foil. Fans of lighter crime capers will rejoice. Agent, Helen Heller. (June 8) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Amusing debut about a hapless SF writer who tries to teach his wife a little lesson that backfires. Sarah's habit of leaving her purse in the grocery cart while she studies the aisles irritates Zack Walker so much that he grabs it, tosses it in the trunk of their car, then waits for her to realize it's been stolen. But he's picked the wrong purse from the wrong cart, and when he tries to return it surreptitiously, he bumps into the owner-dead on the floor of her garage: the second dead body he's found in under a week. The first, discovered on a walk near a pond, belonged to an eco-nerd whom he'd heard fight with the real-estate developer of his new house in Valley Forest Estates, a developer whose secretary now lies moldering in her garage. Things go downhill from there. Zack tries to do good, but troubles pile up. He's waylaid by a plumber who's actually the developer's enforcer, and the neighbors he asks to help, Trixie the accountant and Earl the gardener, have second careers as a hooker and a pot-grower, respectively, and in Earl's case as something even worse that provokes a far-fetched plot twist convincing Zack to pack up the wife and kids and move back to the city. The ultimate in Daddy-doesn't-know-best stories. If the humor wears a bit thin, it's certainly forgivable in a first effort. Agent: Helen Heller
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553587043
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/26/2005
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 162,709
  • Product dimensions: 4.19 (w) x 6.87 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Linwood Barclay is a columnist for the Toronto Star. He is the author of several critically acclaimed novels, including Stone Rain and Lone Wolf. He lives near Toronto with his wife and has two grown children.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

for years, I envied my friend Jeff Conklin, who, at the age of eleven, found a dead guy.

We were in Grade 6, in Mr. Findley's class, and most days we walked home together, Jeff and I, but this particular day my mom picked me up after school not only because it was raining pretty hard, but also because I had a checkup booked with Dr. Murphy, our family dentist. Jeff didn't have the kind of mom who cared about picking him up at school when it was raining, so he struck out for home, no umbrella, no raincoat, stomping through all the puddles in his sneakers.

At one point, the heavens opened up and the rain came down so hard the streets flooded. I remember as we were pulling into the dentist's parking lot you couldn't see past the windshield, even with the wipers going full blast, thwacking back and forth on our 1965 Dodge Polara. It was like we weren't in a car, but in the Maid of the Mist, right under Niagara Falls.

Meanwhile, the worst of the rain had let up a bit as Jeff, now as wet as if he'd done ten laps at the community pool, rounded the corner onto Gilmour Street. Up ahead there was a blue Ford Galaxie pulled up close to the curb, and stretched out on the pavement next to it, on his stomach, was a man.

At first Jeff thought it was a kid, but kids didn't wear nice raincoats or dress pants or fancy shoes. It was a very small man. Jeff approached slowly, then stopped. The man's short legs were stretched out into the street, shoes angled awkwardly, and from where Jeff stood, it looked like his head was cut off at the curb, which really creeped Jeff out.

He took a few more steps, the world engulfed in the sound of rain, and shouted, "Mister?"

The little man said nothing, and didn't move.

"Mister? You okay?"

Now Jeff was standing right over him, and he could see that the man's chest was positioned over a storm drain where water was coursing around him and disappearing. His right arm and head were wedged into the drain. Now Jeff could see why it appeared that the man's head had been cut off.

"Mister?" he shouted one last time. Jeff confided to me that he wet his pants then, but it was okay, because he was already soaked and no one would be able to tell the difference. He ran to the closest house, banged on the door, and told the elderly man who answered that there was a dead man's head in the storm sewer. The old man had a look at the weather and decided to call the police rather than conduct his own investigation.

As best as the police could tell, this was what happened: The man--his name was Archie Roget, and he was an accountant--had left work early and was planning to run a few errands on the way home. He could tell by the approaching clouds that the light rain was about to turn into a deluge, so he pulled over to the curb to get his raincoat out of the trunk. (His wife told police he never went anywhere without a raincoat in the trunk, or a cushion on the front seat to help him see over the steering wheel.) He opened the trunk with his keys from the ignition--this was in the days before remote trunk releases--slipped on the coat, and slammed the trunk shut. Then, somehow or other, he lost his grip on the car keys, which slipped between the iron bars of the storm sewer grate. It was the kind that hugged the curb, where there was a broader vertical opening wide enough to slip an arm in, at least.

Roget got down on his hands and knees, must have been able to see his keys, and reached in. But his arm, like the rest of him, was a few inches too short, so to get a bit more length, he wedged in his head, which was, like the rest of him, tiny.

And his head got stuck.

And then the downpour struck.

Just as the wipers on my mom's car couldn't stay ahead of the rain, the storm drains couldn't empty the streets fast enough. They backed up, and Archie Roget's lungs filled with rainwater.

The circumstances of the man's death were so bizarre that the story made the papers, even hitting the wires. Jeff was interviewed not only by local reporters, but by newspapers from as far away as Spokane and Miami. He was, at least at Wendell Hills Public School, a celebrity. And if it hadn't been for my dental appointment, I might have been there to share the spotlight. This was my introduction to the cruelties of fate.
I moped around the house for nearly a week. How come I never got to find a dead guy? Why did Jeff get all the breaks? Everyone wanted to be his friend, and I tried to bask in his reflected glory. I'd tell my friends at Scouts, a different group of boys from my school friends, "You know that story, about the guy who drowned with his head in the storm drain? Well, that was my best friend who found him, and I woulda been with him, but I had to go to the dentist." No cavities, by the way. A perfect checkup. I could have skipped the appointment and it wouldn't have mattered. The ironies were enough to make an eleven-year-old's head spin.

My dad felt there was at least one lesson to be learned. "When you grow up, Zack, you remember to join the triple A. It's like insurance. If that man had belonged to the auto club, someone else would have come and got his keys for him and he'd be alive today. Don't you forget." This may have been when I started developing my lifelong obsession with safety, but more about that later.

The reason this whole thing with Jeff was such a big deal, of course, is that finding a dead body's not the sort of thing that happens to you every day. Other than Jeff, I can't think of a single friend or acquaintance who's ever stumbled upon a corpse. Not that I've asked them all. It's hardly necessary. If one of your friends finds a body, chances are good that the next time you see them, they're going to mention it. Right away. It's a great conversation starter. As in: "Oh my God, you won't believe what happened on Friday. I was taking a shortcut, that alley behind the deli? And there's these legs sticking out from behind a garbage can."

There are some body-finding circumstances I don't count. Like if you go to check on your ninety-nine-year-old Aunt Hilda, who lives alone and hasn't answered the phone for three days, and find her rigid in her favorite chair, the TV on, the remote on the floor by her feet, the cat climbing the curtains in hunger. That kind of thing happens. That's natural.

And there are certain lines of work where discovering a dead body's no big thing. Police officers come to mind. A lot of times, they're looking for a body before they actually find it, so you lose the element of surprise. Finding a body when you're already looking for a dead body isn't quite the same as when you're just out for a stroll. "Finally, there it is. Now we can get some lunch."

I'm an unlikely candidate to find a body. First of all, I'm not, unlike a police detective, in a line of work where finding a victim of foul play is a common occurrence, unless you know something about science fiction authors that I don't. And second, when I found a body, I wasn't living in some big city, where, if you believe what you see on TV, people come across dead people about as often as they go out for bagels.

I found my body in the suburbs, where, although I do not have actual statistics to back this up, people are more likely to die of boredom than run into someone nasty. I came across a corpse in as tranquil and beautiful a spot as you could hope to find.

Willow Creek, to be exact. Where my wanderings often take me. Listening to shallow water cascading over small rocks can clear the mind and help one work out plot problems. But when you're engaged in thoughts of interplanetary exploration and whether God can spread himself thin enough to oversee worlds other than our own, there's nothing like finding a guy with his skull bashed in to bring you back to reality.

He was face down, in the creek. And, unlike your typical Law & Order extra who comes upon a stranger who's had a date with destiny, I actually knew who this man was, and who might actually want him dead.

A couple of things. Despite how I envied Jeff as a kid, I'd have been happy to go through life without ever finding a dead guy. Because this discovery didn't come with the kind of notoriety Jeff received, but did carry with it the burden of adult responsibility.

And here's the other thing. If this body had been the first and last I'd ever come upon, well, this story would be much shorter. There wouldn't be all that much to tell.

But that's not the way it turned out.

2

you won't get very far into this before you start thinking that I am, not to put too fine a point on it, an asshole. At the very least, a jerk. I don't happen to think I'm an asshole, but I'm also willing to acknowledge your typical asshole's not blessed in the self-awareness department. How many assholes know they're assholes? So I guess what I'm saying is that if I know I've behaved like an asshole on certain occasions, then there's no way I could actually be one. But I'd understand if you remain unconvinced. By the time you've heard this story, you might say, "Man, that Zack Walker, he's a major one."

Let's say my motivations haven't always been fully understood or appreciated, although that sounds a bit like boneheaded politicians who lose because they fail to "communicate their message." It's fair to say my methods of instruction, of trying to teach my loved ones how to conduct themselves more responsibly, could have been better thought out. But overall, I'm not a bad guy. I've always loved my family, and all I've ever wanted was the best for them. A good life, happiness, and, above all, security. It's just that my efforts to make sure they live their lives mindful of the risks that exist out there may have occasionally overstepped the bounds, or even backfired. So I won't blame you for coming away with the impression that I've behaved as a know-it-all, a dickhead--an asshole, if you will--who, rather than going around trying to tell everyone else how to run their lives, could have benefitted from minding his own business.

My married history is littered with examples of what an enlightened asshole I am, but the pertinent examples really begin with the day I was walking back to our new home from the corner of Chancery Park and Lilac Lane, where I'd just dropped a check for our latest property tax installment into the mailbox.

The housecoat lady was watering her driveway. She did this almost daily, sometimes more than once in a given twenty-four-hour period, usually decked out in a flowered housecoat. She'd unreel the hose from its wheel beside the garage, grip the nozzle, and squeeze, forcing lawn clippings and other microscopic bits of debris down the asphalt slope toward the street. She and her husband fussed a lot with their yard, weeding, tidying up the line where lawn meets sidewalk. "Thou shalt edge" was one of their commandments, but having a perfectly clean driveway was the ultimate virtue. Free of oil stains, and, usually, of cars, it would have been an excellent place to perform surgery on a sunny day. I waved to her as I walked past and shouted "Looking good!" over the sound of the spray.

Our house is at the corner of Chancery and Greenway Lane, fronting on Greenway, and approaching our driveway I could see something shiny at the front door. Looking more closely, I could see a set of keys hanging there.

My wife Sarah's Toyota Camry had been parked beside my aging Civic while I was gone. She'd evidently gotten home from work, and must have had her hands full with her briefcase or groceries, because her keys were still hanging from the front lock. The house key was fully inserted, and dangling from the ring were the keys to her car (an actual key plus a big plastic remote thingie with buttons for doors and trunk and a red strip that would set off the alarm if you pressed it hard enough), my Civic key, and one that opened her locker at the newspaper's workout room.

This wasn't the first time she'd left the keys in the door. One morning about six weeks ago, when I went down to get the paper that not only provides us with the news, but also pays Sarah's salary, I'd found her keys hanging from the lock. She'd gotten home from work about eight the night before, which meant the keys had been dangling there more than ten hours. Not only could someone have had access to the house, but they could have stolen both cars from the driveway. I'd strolled into the kitchen with The Metropolitan and tossed it, along with the keys, onto the table in front of Sarah. She recognized the error of her ways and I got a reluctant confession out of her.

The trouble was, even this wasn't the first time. A couple of months before that, our son Paul, who's fifteen, had found her keys in the door, about five minutes after she'd come home. But that time she claimed she knew, and that she'd come through the door carrying the dry cleaning and was headed back to get them when Paul came in. Nobody bought it, but there remained an element of reasonable doubt. We weren't going to get a conviction.

Maybe that was what had happened this time. It was still possible that at any moment she'd reappear to retrieve her keys, so I decided to give her a chance. I leaned up against the rear fender of her Camry, waiting, and gazed up and down our street.

There's not much to obstruct your view. The town of Oakwood planted maples on the boulevards, between the sidewalk and the curb, to give every homeowner a tree--two, if you had a corner lot as we did--but they'd only put them in a year ago. You could wrap your hand around the trunk, thumb and index finger touching. Someday, long after Sarah and I--and probably our kids, too--are gone from the planet, they may throw a lot of shade, but for now, they're the kind of trees that create little work for neighborhood youngsters looking for raking money. And there are few cars parked on the street, except for the ones in front of Trixie's place, two doors down. She runs an accounting business from home and has clients dropping in. Many of the houses come with double, or even triple, garages, and no one's renting out their basement.

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 36 )
Rating Distribution

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(18)

4 Star

(8)

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2 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 36 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2004

    Great Book!

    This is a great book. It's fast paced and keeps your interests. It is comical and I really started feeling sorry for poor ole Zack Walker. Very Humorous. Quick read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2004

    Great debut mystery

    The Walker family used to live downtown. However, when used condoms and needles were found on the street and a five year old girl was killed and cut up and put in the refrigerator, Zack decided it was time to move to the suburbs, where his family would be safe. Zack obsesses over his family¿s safety and he goes to extraordinary lengths to teach his loved one how to remain out of harm's way, which usually ends up making them furious at him.................................... One day when Zack and his wire are at the supermarket, he notices his spouse left her purse in the cart. To teach her a lesson he takes the bag and puts it in the trunk of the car so she will think it is stolen. When his wife comes back to the car, he realizes she is wearing a fanny pack and he stole someone else¿s purse. By the time he tracks the owner down, he finds her murdered in her home and realizes he has stumbled into a dangerous situation that puts him and his family in harm¿s way......................................... BAD MOVE is one of the most exciting crime thrillers of the year as the troubles the protagonist finds himself in borders on the slapstick. His obsessive need for safety lands him in trouble with businessmen, politicians and a cold blooded killer who wants nothing more than to murder the hero and read his latest science fiction manuscript. Making all the right moves, Linwood Barclay has a refreshingly original voice that this reviewer believes will turn her into a superstar in the crime thriller sub-genre........................... Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 5, 2012

    I enjoyed this book so much I have been recommending it to everyone.

    The characters were so believable and at times I laughed so hard I cried. The story line kept me reading till I finished it at 3:00 a.m. It was one of those books that you hate to see end and yet I could not wait to see how things turned out. I am now planning on reading all Linwood Barclay's books. I rate this novel 5 stars.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2012

    Interesting crime story

    I had read some of Linwood Barclay's more recent novels and enjoyed them, so I thought I would try the first in his Zack Walker series. What a kick! The sense of humor he gives his characters, Zack in particular, really adds to the story. The kids were great too! I recommend this for a fun crime thriller story. Now on to the other books in the series!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 13, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Really fun read!

    At first, I thought the events being described were completely pointless. However, they were funny so I continued reading. Little did I know, Barclay would bring every single aspect of the beginning into the end. I was glued to the book and had no desire to put it down. I found myself both laughing, and dying to know what was going to happen. My first Barclay read will not be my last!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2010

    Bad Move

    Linwood Barclay has definately out done himself again. I pick up his books & can't put them down til the last page is read. Zack Walker definately cracks me up with all of the different things he gets himself into. Can't wait to finish this book then read the next 1 in the Zack Walker series.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 21, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    'Bad Move' is actually a good move...

    Linwood Barklay can do no wrong--this series would be perfect for movie adaptation

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2013

    Dreck!

    Wow. I'm glad someone (a good editor?) sat Barclay down at some point and said "If you ever want to make it as a fiction writer, you've got to stop writing crap like this". This book is like a really bad made-for-tv movie, where you're mildly interested for the first 20 minutes thinking "how bad can it be?", and at the hour and 15 minute mark the writing and the acting are so bad you want to poke your eyes out for continuing that long with it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2012

    Kato

    Heyy. *he smiles*

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2012

    April

    Inches closer to him

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 7, 2012

    I HAVE NOT READ A LINWOOD BARCLAY BOOKMRE THAN TWO DAYS.THIS ONE

    I HAVE NOT READ A LINWOOD BARCLAY BOOKMRE THAN TWO DAYS.THIS ONE IS NO EXCEPTION,MY ORDER FOR THE NEXT THREE ZACK WALKER SERIES IS IN

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2012

    Good book!

    This was a great read.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted January 26, 2014

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    Posted January 16, 2011

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    Posted May 20, 2010

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    Posted May 5, 2010

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    Posted May 24, 2013

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    Posted January 15, 2011

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    Posted June 26, 2011

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    Posted April 17, 2011

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