I’ve been a fan of David Bell’s particular brand of twisty psychological thrillers for the past several years, and everything about Layover sounded right up my alley. I dove into it eagerly, but it didn’t take me long to realize that, unfortunately, this wasn’t going to be a book I loved, and, in fact, it ended up being a book I’m quite sad I chose to review. It hurts my heart to criticize the work of authors I love, but sometimes, it simply has to be done.
Joshua Fields is in a bit of a rut. He’s working for his father, hoping one day to become a partner in the family real estate firm, but for now, he’s doing work he feels too qualified for. He takes the same flights every week, stays in the same hotels, and talks business with the same clients. He and his long-time girlfriend are on the verge of breaking up, and there’s a part of Joshua that is beginning to wonder if his life has any meaning at all.
One afternoon while waiting to catch a connecting flight, Joshua meets Morgan in an airport bar. The two strike up a conversation, and Joshua feels an instant connection with her. Of course, he knows he’ll probably never see her again, but he figures he might as well enjoy some good conversation instead of staring off into space while waiting for his flight to take off. When he gets up to leave, he and Morgan share a passionate kiss, and then Morgan walks away. Joshua happens to glance at a nearby TV screen just then, and he’s shocked to see Morgan’s face. It seems she’s a missing person, and her friends and family are desperate to find her.
And then, things get super strange. Joshua boards his flight, only to catch sight of Morgan sitting several rows back. He approaches her, but she pretends she has never seen him before and does her best to brush him off. Joshua, of course, doesn’t understand her behavior, and he insists she tell him what’s going on with her. She’s reluctant to comply, but Joshua persists, even going so far as to skip out on his work obligations in order to remain glued to Morgan’s side.
I had a hard time understanding why Joshua didn’t just forget about Morgan and continue living his life. Sure, he enjoyed her company at the bar, but it would have made more sense for him to call the police and leave the investigating up to them. As it is, he comes off as an extremely obsessed individual, and I found it difficult to buy into the reasons the author supplies for his behavior.
Things get progressively worse from there. Morgan has become involved with some very shady individuals, and she is now on the run. Joshua joins her, not because she really wants him to, but because he can’t resist getting involved. What follows is an extremely confusing and disjointed series of events that left me more than a little bewildered.
Some of the best thrillers contain plot elements that are a little over the top. I mean, that’s pretty much what I’ve come to expect from the genre, but Layover takes the over-the-top concept to a new level. Very little about the story made sense to me, and the stuff I did understand just wasn’t enough to save the book.
The story contains quite a bit of telling and almost no showing, something I’m definitely not a fan of. We’re told again and again how dangerous Morgan’s pursuers are, but the glimpses we get of them didn’t bear this out. They act in ways that are supposed to be creepy, but I found them to be pretty ridiculous. I might have enjoyed the villains more if I hadn’t been constantly told how bad they were.
There is very little character development here. True, the story happens over a relatively short period of time, so a ton of growth wouldn’t have been feasible, but I would have liked to believe Joshua was learning something from all the crazy situations he got himself into. Instead, I came away from the novel with the belief that if a similar situation presented itself to him, he’d act in pretty much the same way he did this time. Nothing that happened appeared to have a long-term effect on him, and that simply didn’t work for me.
Layover is a book I can’t recommend, but I still plan to check out the author’s future releases. If you’ve not read his previous books yet, I suggest trying one of them and giving this one a hard pass.