It must be the end of summer because last week the third installment of Linwood Barclay’s Promise Falls trilogy, The Twenty-Three, landed on the doormat with a satisfying thud.
I was taken a little bit by surprise because when I wrote about the previous volume back in April, we were told that the third wouldn’t be available until November, but apparently it is published in the UK more than a month before it is in the US.
The first chunk of the book deals with the apocalyptic events signposted in the previous two. It is 23rd May and memorial Day weekend in Promise Falls, a ever so down-at-heel town in New York State when more and more people begin to fall ill. The body count mounts and the local hospital is soon swamped by the sick and the dying.
The events are told through the eyes of the characters we’ve met before, both in this trilogy and in previous Barclay novels. Chief among them are Barry Duckworth, the overweight police detective; Randy Finley, the obnoxious, disgraced former mayor; David Harwood, out-of-work journalist and now the PR for Randy on his comeback trail and; Cal Weaver the private detective.
The cause of the chaos is the contamination of the public water supply, but is it an accident or a deliberate act? We’re pretty sure from the previous books that it’s the latter. And how is it connected to earlier events that point to the number twenty-three and the three grisly murders of women over the last three years?
Many books are hyped as page-turners, but The Twenty-Three is the real deal. It flits from character to character and each time leaves you wanting to find out more, and not just to solve the mysteries above because as if they were not enough, there are all sorts of sub-plots going on.
Running through it all is Barclay’s dry humour and succinct characterisation that have become his trademark. That and a plot that leaves you guessing until pretty much to the final page. I really can’t recommend the Promise Falls trilogy highly enough.