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Bad Guys

Bad Guys

4.2 17
by Linwood Barclay

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“Fans of the crime caper will rejoice” that Linwood Barclay is back with the hilarious follow-up to his “riotously funny and irreverent” debut, in which paranoid pop Zack Walker plotted to transplant his city-savvy wife and two teenage kids to the tranquillity of the burbs–where planned communities prevail and fathers rest easy. Well, not


“Fans of the crime caper will rejoice” that Linwood Barclay is back with the hilarious follow-up to his “riotously funny and irreverent” debut, in which paranoid pop Zack Walker plotted to transplant his city-savvy wife and two teenage kids to the tranquillity of the burbs–where planned communities prevail and fathers rest easy. Well, not quite…and now the Walkers have moved home only to find themselves living in the precarious crosshairs of urban sprawl once again, and Zack can’t help but be worried–really worried–that just around the corner lurks the presence of some really bad guys.

Zack is back, and much to his family’s relief, the work-at-home science-fiction writer has left the house to take a job as a features writer for the city paper. But now that Zack’s incessant plotting can no longer be hatched from the comforts of his own home, he must be ever more vigilant to outwit the evil at large, whether in the suburbs, the city, or his own imagination. Zack is ready…or so he thinks.

While researching his first feature article, Zack stumbles upon a real-life crime scene, but what seems like an ordinary hit-and-run may actually be a homicide linked to a gang that’s been burglarizing Crandall’s high-end shops. Suddenly Zack finds himself at the center of a violent crime wave and destined for a confrontation with Barbie Bullock, an unsettling figure infamous in the crime syndicate for his ruthless business tactics and peculiar proclivity for collecting dolls.

And all is not quiet on the home front either. Zack’s protective instincts launch into overdrive when he discovers that his daughter’s rejected suitor has been tracing her every step and may harbor a much more ominous motivation than winning a Saturday night date. Nor does his son’s strange behavior and recent friendship with a creepy computer recluse inspire joy in a father’s heart.

As worlds begin to collide and boundaries between family and foe blur, Zack goes on the attack, and heaven help the bad guys when this resourceful father comes to make good on a deal gone bad.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Humor, realistic characters, a jaunty first-person narration, and fast pacing make for an enjoyable read."—Booklist
Publishers Weekly
Reporter Zack Walker, worrier, bungler and reluctant hero, has moved from the suburbs back to the city (unnamed, but the generic metropolitan background suffices) with his wife, Sarah, son Paul and daughter Angie, in Canadian author Barclay's winning second comic caper (after 2004's Bad Move). The Walkers aren't really dysfunctional, but they're close enough to the edge as they cope with various pressures: 16-year-old Paul's flirtation with drinking; college freshman Angie's admirer, who may be a dangerous stalker; and the transportation convolutions necessary in a one-car, two-school, two-job family. Zack tries to solve this last problem while also working on a feature story that has him accompanying a PI on a stakeout for a smash-and-grab gang. He avoids hassling with a car dealer by going to a police auction, but the car he gets is no bargain. When his PI friend is attacked, Zack races to the rescue. And when some nasty folks target his family, Zack pulls out all the stops to try to remove the threat. This cleverly executed mystery includes both long-term setups and well hidden surprises. Agent, Helen Heller. (May 31) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Following his debut in Bad Move, newspaper writer Zach Walker continues to uncover the murderous edge of suburban life. Humorist Barclay lives near Toronto. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A hapless dad bumbles into trouble, dragging friends and relations with him. Zack Walker (Bad Move, 2004) has moved his family back to the city, taken a job at The Metropolitan, the daily where his wife is his editor, and begun accompanying a shamus named Lawrence on stakeouts to write a feature on the life of a private eye. Despite his wife's misgivings, Zack, tired of ferrying their teenager Angie around, decides they need to be a two-car family. Big mistake. The car he buys at an auction of confiscated cars belonged to drug impresario Lenny Indigo, and Barbie Bullock, his second-in-command, wants it back. On the home front, Angie's being stalked by lovelorn nerd Trevor, who electronically bugs her every move. Even as Zack imprudently decides to stalk Trevor, he's being stalked himself by a gargantuan SUV driven by some hyper-muscled goons. Lawrence winds up in the hospital nearly dead. A Metro photographer is murdered. Angie is kidnapped. And Trevor just keeps on stalking her. What's a poor dad to do? Naturally, Zack asks the wrong guy for help, causing even more mayhem, which is resolved only when a souvenir of his stalking escapade, a recapped bottle of Snapple, manages to save the day. Bright and funny, with a wry handling of the overprotective father and great panache in shaking up all the seemingly innocuous pieces and tying them together.

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Random House Publishing Group
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4.16(w) x 6.86(h) x 1.15(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

"So, what are you asking me?” Harley said. “Are you asking me for drugs? If you want drugs, there are drugs. There’s alprazolam—that’s your Xanax generic—or lorazepam; you’ve got your diazepam and—”


“Diazepam. It’s not a cooking spray. It’s Valium. There’s a huge list of antianxiety prescriptions out there, some better than others, some downright dangerous. We don’t use phenobarbitals anymore, too addictive, sometimes fatal. There’s various herbal remedies, if you’re into that sort of thing. Or, I don’t know whether you’ve considered something like this before, but you could just lighten the fuck up.”

Harley’s not your average doctor. He’s more of a friend, with a medical degree, and a successful practice, and an examining room, which I happened to be sitting in at this moment, somewhat under duress. Harley and I were buddies back in high school, then lost touch a bit while I went to college for an English degree and he went off to medical school. “Hey,” I would say to him when we occasionally ran into one another, “just what kind of job do you expect to get with a medical degree?”

Years later, he became my doctor.

This appointment hadn’t been my idea. It had been my wife Sarah’s. And “idea” is probably the wrong word. “Ultimatum” would probably be a better one. “Go see Harley,” she said, “or I’m going to call a divorce lawyer. Or smother you in your sleep.”

The threat about the divorce lawyer didn’t worry me that much. Sarah has a low opinion of the legal profession, and would probably choose sticking with me over engaging the services of one of its members. But the smothering-me-in-my-sleep thing, that seemed within her range of capabilities.

“The thing is,” Harley continued, leaning up against the paper-covered examining bed, “there’s a lot of shit to deal with in life, and sometimes that’s just what you have to do. Deal with it. You’re not the only one with a teenage daughter, you know. Mine’s twenty-two now, seems to finally have her head on straight, but two years ago she was too busy boffing some out-there art student to study for her midterms. The guy did a show of sculptures made from raw meat. You had to go early.”

“I can’t seem to help it,” I said. “I worry. I worry all the time. It’s the way I’m hardwired. Sometimes I’ve let it get the better of me.”

“I know,” Harley said. “I watch the news.”

“And I’ve been trying to do better, honest to God, but this thing with Angie . . .”

“How old is she now?”


Harley’s eyes rolled, remembering. “And what did you do, exactly?”

“She’d promised to be home by one in the morning. She was going out with some guy from where she worked for the summer, at the pool store. She sold chlorine and algaecide and tested water samples, and there was this guy who worked there, young kid, who went around the neighborhood maintaining people’s pools for them.”


“So she started going out with Pool Boy.”

“This is what you called him. Pool Boy.”

“Not to his face, or to Angie. It was just a name I had for him, is all. Anyway, she was out with him one night, and I was already awake around midnight, and sometimes if I’m up that late, I’ll stay up to make sure she gets home okay. I’ll read. But if I read in bed, it keeps Sarah up, with the light on, so I went down to the living room, stretched out on the front couch right by the front door, so I’d be right there when Angie got home. Even if I nodded off, I’d hear her when she got in.”

“Go on.”

“Well, I guess I did doze off, and when I woke up, it was two-thirty in the morning, which meant Angie was way past curfew, way past when she said she’d be home. So I got up, went into the kitchen and called her cell, but couldn’t get an answer.”

“So, knowing you, you did what you do best,” Harley said. “You panicked.”

“I did not panic,” I said. “I went out looking for her. I knew where Pool Boy lived—he lives with his parents—and what kind of car he drove, so I drove over there, and the whole house is dark, except for one light in the basement.”

“Not a good sign,” Harley said, nodding slightly.

“Yeah, well, I got out of my car, looked around his, then went up to the house.”

“You knocked on the door at, what, nearly three in the morning?”

“No, I kind of didn’t want to do that unless I knew for sure Angie was there, since I was probably going to be waking up Pool Boy’s mom and dad, so I thought I’d just have a look in the basement window. I had to get down on my knees—they’re these shallow windows, only come up about a foot from ground level.”

Harley sighed, closed his eyes.

“There was a bit of a gap in the curtains, and I could see it was your basic rec room, wood paneling on the walls, old couch.”

“And who was on the couch, I’m afraid to ask,” Harley said.

“No one,” I said. “Look, you need to understand, I don’t want to violate Angie’s privacy, I know what kids are up to today, but it’s a safety thing, okay? I just needed to know that she was okay.”

“So you didn’t see her in the window,” Harley said. “Was Pool Boy there?”

“Not inside,” I said. “But when I got up from looking in the window, I noticed that he was standing next to me.”

“Awkward,” said Harley.

“And his dad was next to him. I guess the dad heard the car, his son was still up, they came out to investigate.”

“Was this before or after they called the cops?”

“After. But by the time they arrived, we’d sorted it out. I mean, they realized who I was. Pool Boy said he’d dropped off Angie around twelve-thirty, and asked if I’d checked her bedroom before I’d come to his place.”

“Which you hadn’t.”

“I was sure I’d hear her when she came in. But she says she tiptoed, didn’t want to wake me.”

“How long ago was this?”

“About a month. Before school started up again. Angie’s still hardly speaking to me. And the thing is, now I think she’s got some sort of stalker.”

Harley dropped into the other chair in the small examining room. He was looking pretty exhausted. I seem to have that effect on people at times. “A stalker.”

“Not the Pool Boy. I think they’ve broken up.”

“There’s a surprise,” Harley said.

“Is this part of the new medicine?” I asked. “Crack wise while your patients open up to you?”

“Of course not. Go ahead. I shall remain nonjudgmental.”

“She calls him a stalker, but you know how kids talk. Anyone who’s interested in them they don’t like is categorized a stalker. But he calls her a lot, shows up unexpectedly wherever she is. I’m just worried this guy may be some kind of a nutcase. But I’m kind of in a bad spot now, what with the Pool Boy incident being so fresh in everyone’s mind, that anything I say or do looks like some kind of hysterical overreaction.”

“Just because a guy calls her a few times and shows up where your daughter hangs out doesn’t make him a serial killer.”

“I know that. But I get, jeez, I get this knot in my chest, worrying about my family. It’s not like we haven’t had some problems in the past.”

“That was then. That was an isolated incident.” Harley leaned forward a bit in his chair, like he wanted our conversation to be more intimate. “Zack,” he said slowly, “I don’t want to put you on anything unless you feel it’s absolutely necessary. It’s better to work out your problems without medications.”

“I totally agree,” I said. “I’m not asking for a prescription. It’s not like I’m a hypochondriac or something, although, if you did diagnose something, I’d have to conclude it was fatal.”

“Maybe you need to focus your attention on work, get your mind off what’s happening at home. What you’re going through isn’t any different than what every other parent goes through. We all worry about our kids, but we have to let them live their own lives, you know.”


“So, when you’re writing, doing your work, doesn’t that help get your mind off other things? Isn’t that a good way to reduce your anxiety level?”

I nodded. “For the most part.”

“So, what are you working on now? Another book?”

“Well, I’m back with a paper now, The Metropolitan, doing features. You can’t exactly make a living writing books.”

“I liked that one you did, about the guy goes back in time to kill the inventor of those hot-air hand dryers in men’s rooms before he’s born. That wasn’t a bestseller?”

“No,” I said.

Harley looked surprised. I continued, “I’m doing a feature right now on this private eye, and the last few nights, I’ve been with him on this, like, well, a stakeout I guess you’d call it, hoping to catch some gang that’s been smashing into high-end men’s shops, making off with hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of stuff.”

“Sounds interesting,” Harley said. “But I trust it’s not the sort of thing where you’re exposing yourself to any real risk. You’ve had enough of that.” I smiled tiredly. “Don’t worry. From now on, I just write about stuff, I don’t get personally involved.”

“That’s good,” he said. “And what about the pharmaceutical option? You want a scrip for anything?”

I shook my head. “Naw, unless there’s anything else you can recommend.”

Harley got up, opened one of the stainless steel cabinets that held cotton balls and gauze and tongue depressors and bandages, rooted around in there and came out with a bottle of what appeared to be very expensive Scotch. He set it on the table next to him, found two small paper cups, and poured a couple of fingers’ worth into each.

“I find this works well,” he said.

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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Bad Guys 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
The_Mugster More than 1 year ago
Barclay's method is one of those inside/outside narratives, in that we get as much interior psycho-musings from worry-wart Zack, the protagonist, as we do any kind of story arc. He's one batso dude, and he drives everyone around him crazy, too. Part of the enjoyment here is being surprised by whatever new plot twist Zack stumbles over next, and sometimes he doesn't stumble over them.he makes them happen.by accident! I found this one more entertaining than Barclay's later novels, as those are more traditional, linear exposition of the crime, the slow reveal, the sidetracks, the jeopardies, and ultimately the surprise denouement. This one's all over the map, and therefore, for me, it was much more fun.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a fun read!!
harstan More than 1 year ago
After finding the burbs worse than Tom Hanks (see BAD MOVE), super worrier Zack Walker returns to the inner city with his wife and their two teenage children. He lets his paranoia over the safety of children get a grip on him when his eighteen years old daughter Angie fails to come home by curfew. He stalks the home of her date ¿Pool Boy¿ only to be caught and learn his daughter is sleeping in her bed. --- Now his daughter is being stalked by apparently Trevor Wylie, a friend of her younger brother Paul, but she wants dad to stay out of it. Meanwhile the Metropolitan reporter is working graveyard stakeouts accompanying private detective Laurence on trying to prevent robberies. However, a peer who shares work with Laurence, Diamond is murdered on a concurrent stake out. As Zack investigates the homicide, he also stealthy tries to stop the stalker bothering his daughter; all this and more fears without taking medication. --- Zack is as nutty and paranoid as ever over the safety of his family as he sees bad doers under every rock. The humorous story line grips readers once they realize how foolish Zack takes things (never dawned on him to check whether his daughter was home) and never slows down until he places himself at risk from a killer and the stalker. Linwood Barclay provides a wonderfully jocular Noir starring a sympathetic Don Knotts like lunatic who no one understands. His wife threatens to use a pillow on him while he sleeps if he does not back off from his driving his family crazy over their wellbeing.--- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would read more from him.
jaysueread More than 1 year ago
2nd book in a 4 part series very quirky and refreshing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I always enjoy books by Linwood Barclay and especially the Zack Walker series. They're mystery thrillers with humor, a great combination! Try them, I'm sure you will enjoy them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is here
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Good mix of humor, action, and mystery. One question-- who the heck is Harriet Klausner? Grandma M
Kevin Calchary More than 1 year ago
Very entertaining - Got me hooked on Barclay books
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was very good from beginning to end. It was hard to put it down. Some parts of the book were hilariously funny. I found myself laughing out loud several times. I love the predicament Zack Walker is always finding himself in. If you want a good mystery/suspense novel to read then this is a very good one in a series of 4 by Linwood Barclay.
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