Stephen King calls Trust Your Eyes “the best Barclay so far,” and who am I to disagree with the master of horror? I’ve been a fan of Barclay’s work since No Time for Goodbye. His mysteries begin with a killer hook (in No Time, it was a teenage girl waking up to find her whole family gone), and while his stories usually turn out to have fairly conventional endings (mildly disappointing only because the hook is so gripping), they are fun, entertaining thrillers. I definitely agree with King however that Trust Your Eyes is Barclay’s best one yet — it’s the most tightly plotted of his books, and probably the one I found most difficult to put down.
Family relationships play a big part in all the Barclay books I’ve read, and in Trust Your Eyes, the author focuses on the strained relationship between brothers Thomas and Ray. Their father had just died, and Ray has had to put his life on hold to figure out how to best care for Thomas now that their father is gone. Thomas is a map-obsessed schizophrenic who spends most of his day in his bedroom, travelling the world through a Google Maps-type program called Whirl360. Part of Thomas’ schizophrenia is the belief that it’s his job, practically a calling, to study the world through Whirl360 and commit the streets to memory. The mystery kicks off when Thomas sees an image in a New York window that looks like a woman being murdered.
I have to admit — a major part of this book’s attraction for me is the techie spin on a concept similar to one of my favourite Hitchcock films. The amazing thing is, this story isn’t even futuristic anymore. Who hasn’t used Google Maps and Google Street View to find places? A character admits using Whirl360 to find a restaurant and research their menu, and that’s not even awe-inspiring anymore. The average person probably wouldn’t get involved in a murder mystery like Thomas does — like Ray, we are more likely to choose to ignore odd images and focus on our own lives. So I love how Thomas’ obsession with online maps is disturbing voyeurism on one hand, yet also offers itself to superhero potential in this story.
The mystery itself is fairly straightforward. We know fairly early on the circumstances and key players behind the scene that Thomas witnesses, and a plot thread leading up to that scene runs parallel to Thomas and Ray’s story. Despite our access into the perspectives within this plot line, however, Barclay deliberately obfuscates the thread, so that we are treated to various surprising revelations throughout.
The real hook to this story however is the family dynamics between Thomas and Ray. Their relationship adds a tender, complex angle to this fast-paced high-tech thriller. You feel for Ray, who has no idea how to teach his brother to take care of himself, yet you also feel for Thomas, who, as another character points out, is treated with condescension. There are several subplots about their family — the circumstances around their father’s death, an incident from Thomas’ past that seems to have scarred him — and, to be honest, there were times I found those even more compelling than the main plot. I wanted to learn more about these characters, and Barclay’s given both of them very rich backgrounds.
I generally find Barclay’s endings the weakest part of his books, and Trust Your Eyes is no exception. His endings are still good, just difficult to live up to the expectations set by the absolutely gripping beginnings. I especially love how Thomas’ unique talents played such a big role. Still, the big thriller ending in Trust Your Eyes felt a bit rushed — having taken up all these plot threads, Barclay had to tie all of them up neatly. The big action scene also involves a couple of really convenient twists. The ending also included some really big revelations that, while fairly central to the story, felt like they were placed at the end just to elicit a last minute gasp from the reader. True, there was a last minute adrenaline spike, but it felt artificial.
Still, Trust Your Eyes is his most tightly plotted, possibly his best novel that I’ve read yet. Compelling mystery, and fascinating story about brothers.