Find You First

Find You First

Find You First by Linwood Barclay | UK Paperback Cover | Aug 2021
UK Paperback Edition


The Sunday Times Bestseller
Irish Times Bestseller
#1 Canadian Fiction Book – Globe and Mail, and Toronto Star
#3 Original International Fiction Book – Globe and Mail, and Toronto Star

About the Book

The New York Times bestselling author of Elevator Pitch and master of psychological suspense returns with a riveting thriller in which the possible heirs of a dying tech millionaire are mysteriously being eliminated, one by one.

Tech millionaire Miles Cookson has more money than he can ever spend, and everything he could dream of—except time. He has recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and there is a fifty percent chance that it can be passed on to the next generation. For Miles, this means taking a long hard look at his past…

Two decades ago, a young, struggling Miles was a sperm donor. Somewhere out there, he has kids—nine of them. And they might be about to inherit both the good and the bad from him—maybe his fortune, or maybe something much worse.

As Miles begins to search for the children he’s never known, aspiring film documentarian Chloe Swanson embarks on a quest to find her biological father, armed with the knowledge that twenty-two years ago, her mother used a New York sperm bank to become pregnant.

When Miles and Chloe eventually connect, their excitement at finding each other is overshadowed by a series of mysterious and terrifying events. One by one, Miles’s other potential heirs are vanishing—every trace of them wiped, like they never existed at all.

Who is the vicious killer—another heir methodically erasing rivals? Or is something even more sinister going on?

It’s a deadly race against time…



New Haven, CT

“You’re dying.”

Dr. Alexandra Nyman was expecting some reaction when she delivered her diagnosis, but Miles Cookson was busy looking at his phone.

“Did you hear me?” Alexandra asked. “I know that’s blunt, but you’ve always told me to be straight with you. There’s no way to sugarcoat this.”

She’d come around her desk and was sitting in a leather chair next to Miles’s, angled slightly so that her right knee was inches away from his left. She held a file folder with half an inch of paperwork stuffed into it.

Miles, still staring at the phone, both thumbs tapping away, said, “I’m looking it up.”

“You don’t have to look it up,” she said. “I’m sitting right here. Ask me anything you want.”

He glanced at her. “You’re wrong, Alex. I can’t be dying. I’m fucking forty-two years old. It’s something else. Has to be. Look at me, for Christ’s sake.”

She did. Miles presented as someone in good shape. Five-eight, trim at 160 pounds. She knew he’d run marathons into his thirties, and still jogged a few times a week. Nearly bald, but he made it work in a Patrick Stewart kind of way.

“Miles, we did the tests and they—”

“Fuck the tests,” he said, putting down the phone and looking her in the eye. “All my so-called symptoms, you can put them all down to stress. Are you telling me you’ve never been short-tempered, or restless, or have things slip your mind now and then? And yeah, okay, I’ve been a bit clumsy. Falling over my own feet. But it can’t be what you’re saying.”

She said nothing, but decided to let him vent.

“Jesus,” Miles whispered. “How could I . . . It’s tension, stress, simple as that. You fucking doctors, you’re always looking for trouble where there isn’t any. Finding a way to justify all those years you went to school.”

Alexandra frowned, but not critically. She understood the anger.

“Sorry,” Miles said. “Cheap shot.” “It’s okay.”

“It’s . . . it’s a lot to take in.” “I know.”

“It’s not stress, is it?”

“If all you had was some restlessness, a bit of forgetfulness, even the odd mood swing, I would agree with you. But stress doesn’t explain the involuntary body movements, the jerking, the twitching you’ve been—”

“Fuck,” he said. “Fuck fuck fuck.”

“And I should clarify what I said, about you dying. There’s no cure, there’s nothing we can do. I can prescribe tetrabenazine, which will help with your symptoms when they become more pronounced, but it’s not a cure.” 

Miles laughed sardonically. “Why couldn’t it have been cancer? There’s stuff they can do for cancer. Cut it out, hit it with chemo. But this?”

“There’s no getting around it,” Alexandra  said. “Huntington’s . . . it’s like you take Alzheimer’s, ALS, and Parkinson’s and put them all into a blender. Your symptoms are very similar to any of those.”

“But worse.”

She said nothing.

“The other day,” he said, “I wanted to put one foot in front of the other, something as simple as that, and my brain was like, no way, Jose. Not happening. And then, a second later, it was okay. Dorian, my assistant, had set up a meeting, told me all the details. Five minutes later, I could barely remember any of it.”

“I know.”

“I go through periods, I feel restless, like my skin’s crawling, I have to do something, I can’t relax.” He paused. “How bad will it get?”

“It’s a brain disease,” she said matter-of-factly. “You’ll lose more and more motor control. Unlike ALS, where you can remain mentally sharp while your body’s ability to do things deteriorates, Huntington’s will impact your cognitive abilities.”

“Dementia,” Miles said.

The doctor nodded. “There will come a point where you will need constant care. There is no cure. They’re working on it, and they’ve been working on it for some time. One of these days, it’ll happen.”

“But not soon enough to help me,” he said. Alexandra said nothing.

“Who’s doing the research? How much money do they need? I’ll cut them a check so they can get off their asses and do something. What do they need? A million? Ten million? Tell me. I’ll write them a check tomorrow.”

The doctor leaned back in her chair and folded her arms. “This isn’t something you can buy your way out of, Miles. Not this time. All the money in the world won’t bring about a cure overnight. There are some very dedicated people working on this.”

Miles turned his head, looked out the window as he took that in. “How long?”

“Well, that’s the thing. Whether it’s Huntington’s, or cancer, or your heart, whatever, predicting life expectancy is a mug’s game. Look at Stephen Hawking. When he was diagnosed with ALS—you know, Lou Gehrig’s disease—they gave him two years. He lived for several more decades. Last year, I had someone in for a checkup, gave the guy a clean bill of health. Dropped dead two days later of a heart attack.”

“This isn’t helpful,” Miles said.

“I know. For you, it could be four or five years, maybe less, or maybe you’ve got twenty years. When we did your genetic test, we were looking for a high nucleotide repeat. Below thirty-six the likelihood of Huntington’s is much less, but when you get up around thirty-nine, then you’re—”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Apps, I understand. DNA stuff, not so much.”

Alexandra nodded her understanding. “Sorry. Too technical. Look, we’re going to want to do regular assessments, see how you’re doing. That may give us a better understanding of your long-term prognosis.”

“I could live a long time, but it could be hell,” he said.

“Yes. Here’s the bottom line. You know what you’ve got. If there are things you want to do, things you want to accomplish— amends you want to make—now is as good a time as any. Maybe you end up doing it with plenty of time to spare. But a diagnosis like this, it sharpens your focus. Helps you set priorities.” She sighed. “I’m sorry, Miles. I’ll be with you every step of the way.” She paused. “There’s something else we should talk about.”

“God, not more bad news.”

“No, but let me ask you about family history again. Did either of your parents have Huntington’s?”

“No,” he said. “I mean, not that I know of. I suppose one of them could have but it never had a chance to show itself. They died in a car accident when they were in their forties. My dad was a drunk. He ran their Ford Explorer into a bridge abutment on the Merritt Parkway.”

“You have a brother, yes?” Miles nodded. “Gilbert.”

“The thing about Huntington’s is, it’s very much an inherited condition. You’re right that one of your parents might have developed it had they not died prematurely. You could have inherited it from one of them. If a parent has Huntington’s, there’s a 50 percent chance that any of their children will have it, too.”

“Pretty high odds.”

“Right. So, there’s a high probability that your brother has it, too. I think he should be tested.” She hesitated. “Are you close?”

“He works for me,” Miles said. “That’s not what I asked.”

“We’re . . . close enough. Things got a bit strained after he married Cruella de Vil.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Caroline. I’m not . . . a fan. But I’m not exactly her favorite person, either.” He thought about what the doctor had said. “I’ll talk to Gilbert. Suggest he get tested. Or maybe . . .”

“Maybe what?”

“Nothing,” he said.

Alexandra waited, trying to will him to be more forthcoming.

When he wasn’t, she forced a smile.

“There is one tiny piece of good news,” she said.

“This isn’t like that joke, is it?” Miles asked. “Where the doctor says, ‘I have bad news and good news. The bad news is you’re dying, but the good news is I’m sleeping with Brad Pitt’?”

Alexandra said, “No, not like that.”

“Okay. Tell me.”

“Well, you’re not married. You have no children. If you did, this would be devastating news for them. It’d be terrible enough to learn you’ve had this diagnosis. But on top of that, they’d have to deal with the news that they might have it as well. One chance in two. That would be, for you, I think, an extra emotional burden you really don’t need at this time.”

Miles stared at her, expressionless. “Miles?” she said.

“Sorry,” he said. “Just blanked out there for a second.” Alexandra grew concerned. “Do you have children, Miles?”

And Miles thought, Isn’t that just the fucking million-dollar question?


“Mr. Barclay is known for keeping readers on the edge of their seats. In Find You First, he surpasses his own past successes with a multi-strand plot that bounces, in short, cliff-hanging chapters… Propelled by Dickensian twists of fate and Hitchcockian suspense, the book is populated by a large and colorful cast, including some chillingly pragmatic hit-people, a couple of foolishly adulterous spouses, a desperately lonely comic-book fan and an underage runaway in a gilded cage. All of them help Miles Cookson learn: ‘Being a parent is a lot more than just biology.’” – Wall Street Journal

“Prolific novelist Linwood Barclay delivers a clever twist on an old trope: heirs knocking off other heirs to inflate their own inheritance…Science meets megalomania in this up-to-date nifty entertainment.” – The Washington Post

“Find You First starts with a bang and ends with an even bigger one. Barclay is a terrific writer, but he’s outdone himself with this. It’s the best book of his career. I couldn’t put it down, and you won’t be able to, either. If you enjoy thrillers, this is the real deal. It never lets up.” – Stephen King

“Linwood Barclay is a stone-cold pro.” – Joe Hill, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“Barclay (Elevator Pitch) deftly twists and turns all these characters into a taut and engrossing thriller that will keep readers guessing until the end. A definite must-read for fans of Harlan Coben, Jason Pinter, or Christopher Swann. – Library Journal  – Starred review

“Barclay has a knack for turning news stories or social trends into rambunctious black-comedy thrillers full of sharply drawn fools and knaves.” The Sunday Times, Thriller of the Month

“Pre-COVID I would have described this as the perfect beach read (remember them?) but it will do just as good a job on a staycation.” Evening Standard

“Linwood Barclay’s thrillers move at breakneck speed … pacy, exciting” Woman & Home

“I always find myself well and truly robbed of a peaceful night’s sleep after turning the pages of Linwood’s books … what is so unsettling about his novels are just how real they feel” Yours

“The thriller writer is back with a compelling romp around the states, equipped with dark and delicious characters to keep you hooked ’til the end.” – Magic Radio Book Club

“A tightly plotted tale that moves at a Helter Skelter pace.” Best

“Linwood Barclay has written a wildly entertaining adventure story with some serious matters giving it weight” Literary Review

“A tense read that has you racing through it until the end” Belfast Telegraph & Woman’s Way

“Sinister … reliably good” Independent

“This audio will have you on the edge of your seat” Sunday Post

“another gripping thriller from best-selling master of tension Linwood Barclay”Hello

“A pacy rollercoaster of a ride … in true Linwood style, the story gains momentum until you literally can’t turn the pages quick enough … this book has everything!” Woman’s Weekly

“A relentlessly tense thriller … there’s plenty of the sardonic humour that came to the fore in Mr. Barclay’s previous novel Elevator Pitch … the comedy enhances the edgy atmosphere”Times Crime Club

Find You First is an enjoyable, taut thriller that never lets up on the intrigue as it races to tie everything together. What more could anyone ask for?” Mystery & Suspense Magazine

“With a truly unique and clever premise, best-selling author Linwood Barclay’s Find You First is an incredible thrill ride with non-stop action. It is full of smart and funny dialogue, plus Barclay is a master of ending chapters with a cliffhanger, so there is simply no putting this book down once you get started…Barclay has filled this thriller with well-drawn, memorable characters, fast paced action and unpredictable twists. There is a reason he has such a loyal fan base! In Find You First, Barclay has given us an exciting puzzle to solve, and tremendously interesting characters to solve it with.” – Nerd Daily

“The twists and turns in Find You First are nicely balanced with suspense, action, character development and a plot that demands that you read the story from start to finish with no pauses or excuses. Barclay, who has demonstrated with a long and impressive bibliography that he is incapable of writing badly, has penned the book of his (or anyone’s) career. The cinematic narrative makes it perfect for video adaptation, but don’t wait for the movie or the series. Neither could be better than what Barclay has given us in the here and now.” – Bookreporter

Find You First has a style reminiscent of A.J. Finn (The Woman in the Window) and Paula Hawkins (Girl on the Train), bullet speed and all consuming! This one will leave you up, at all hours of the night, until you reach the end!” – Girly Book Club

“Barclay’s version of the monster is pulling the strings in this no-frills, expertly designed thriller with just the right amount of heart.”  Air Mail

“As a long time reader of his, I am never disappointed in his books. This one is not only his best work to date, but definitely the thriller of the summer. It has a gloriously insane ending that would be a beauty for a movie adaptation. I hope there are people in Hollywood who have read this tale. It is a natural for the big screen.” Florida Times-Union