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I Will Ruin You by Linwood Barclay

Updated: Jun 27

Another edge-of-your-seat thriller by the Canadian master of suspense! I enjoy all of Linwood Barclay’s books, and this is one of his best. Full of secrets, twists, and revelations, I Will Ruin You deals with real-life issues while providing an entertaining read.

I Will Ruin You examines the repercussions of abuse and the all-too real dangers that exist in the school system. When high school teacher Richard stops a bomb threat, he experiences highs and lows as he becomes both a hero to parents, students, and staff as well as the victim of a blackmailer. That the accusations of sexual abuse are false is irrelevant—Richard worries he will be condemned anyway. His concern for his family and the victim(s) guide his actions, but so does his fear of being labelled an abuser. As a teacher myself, I connected with his feelings, although I didn’t always agree with his choices. But we never know how we will deal with a situation until we find ourselves in it.

I enjoyed the interaction between Richard and his family, demonstrating what he has to lose if the accusations become public. His connection to local law enforcement, through his sister-in-law, complicates issues rather than aiding his situation. Richard comes across as a good person who makes rash decisions based on fear. The author does a great job of showing how teachers’ personal lives (not to mention those of police officers) are under scrutiny along with their professional lives. On the other side of the coin, the effects of abuse years later are explored through the victims’ life decisions. The impact of authority figures on youth is thought-provoking and well-handled without intruding on the main plot of Richard’s dilemma.

The intricate and complex plot has so much going on, I wasn’t able to catch my breath, and I found the book difficult to set down even though I had plenty of other things to do. Fortunately, the words flow so smoothly, making for a quick read, leading to a ‘wow’ moment at the end. It reminded me of Barclay’s earlier books (which hooked me, making Barclay a must-read author for me), the Zack Walker series, in which family figures prominently and everyday events lead to situations that spiral out of control. 

Barclay uses an interesting mix of POV in this novel. Richard tells his story in the first person, giving the reader an up-personal look at his motivations, but we also hear from other characters in the third person, adding to the suspense as chapters alternate between POVs.

The fast-paced plot and finely-crafted delivery kept me glued to the pages and immersed me in the story to the point where I forgot I was reading. It’s a rare author who can immerse the reader so fully in their fiction. A highly recommended read for thriller fans!

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