Linwood Barclay first started writing about events in the fictional Promise Falls in 2007 and hasn’t looked back, turning out quality thrillers at the rate of more than one a year.
For me, the secret of Barclay’s success is Promise Falls itself. I have little by way of first hand experience of small town America, but the way Barclay describes it is much the way I would imagine it to be. A parochial place that can homely and scary in turn and everyone has a secret, some small and others monstrously large, but they twist together in a pattern of dark motives.
In Broken Promise, we again meet David Harwood who we first met in Never Look Away published in 2010. Then he was the main suspect when his wife disappeared without trace from the local amusement park. In the five years since then, his wife has died leaving him with a young son to raise alone which he has done while working as a journalist on the Boston Globe, But his shifts make it hard for him to be around for his son and so he takes a job back where he started in Promise Falls.
Things start to unravel for him when he visits his cousin Marla, damaged by the loss of her baby during childbirth, only to find her caring for an infant that she claims was brought o her by an angel. Harwood tries to reunite the baby with its real mother only to find her on her kitchen floor, the victim of a grisly murder. His cousin is the prime suspect and Harwood begins to dig into the murky secrets of the town to prove her innocence.
Along the way we meet some familiar characters from previous novels, particularly the likeable, overweight detective, Barry Duckworth, and the corrupt politician, Randy Finley, who is odious and entertaining in equal measure. A sort of localised Donald Trump really.
As with all Barclay’s novels, Broken Promise is written with pace and dry humour, and as I got towards the few remaining pages I wondered how he could possibly tie up all the loose ends because there is much more going on besides the murder and the mystery of the baby. It was only then that I realised that this is just the first of a trilogy and the next volume, Far From True, is due for publication in April and already on my pre-order list.