The Talking Typewriter
There is a funny bit in Linwood Barclay’s A Noise Downstairs, where a man has to explain to his son what a typewriter is, because, looking at the noisy gadget without a monitor, the kid cannot understand what the thing is used for.
The typewriter plays a starring role in the book, however, as the clack of its keys spook a man who has a lot more to worry about. Paul Davis is driving home, when he sees Kenneth, a colleague at the college where he teaches, driving a car with a broken taillight and erratically at that. Paul follows him to check whether is he drunk or asleep at the wheel. Kenneth’s actions are suspicious—he stops to throw something heavy into a dumpster, and then stops at an isolated spot. Paul approaches the car and what he sees in the backseat shocks him; the next thing he knows, Kenneth has hit him on the head with a shovel.
Thanks to a police car driving past, Paul is saved from being murdered, but suffers some brain damage and has PTSD for which he has to see a therapist, Anna White, who has problems of her own, including a father slipping into dementia and a troublesome patient.
Paul figures that he will only be able to really cope with what happened that night if he can reconstruct the event, for which he is willing to overlook his unease and meet Kenneth in prison. If anything positive comes out of the traumatic incident, it is the healing of the rift with his estranged wife.
Then, a typewriter that his wife gifted him, starts clacking in the middle of the night, and after all rational reasons have been eliminated, it leaves the supernatural.
Barclay strews the story with red herrings, so the suspense holds to the end. The novel is structured well, the protagonist is likeable, and the reader cannot see the final twist coming. Plenty of reasons to pick up this one.