Broken Promise (Promise Falls #1), by Linwood Barclay

Four stars (of five)

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Linwood Barclay, and Penguin Group Berkley NAL for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with this review.

Barclay is back with another of his psychological thrillers that keeps the reader engaged and wondering until the bitter end. David Harwood holds the short end of the stick; a single dad after the loss of his wife, a plum journalism job that falls apart as soon as he starts, and he’s forced to live with his parents to make ends meet. When his mother asks him to check in on a wayward cousin, still suffering from the recent loss of a baby, David is sure this will be a quick meeting and distraction from his dreary life. However, Marla Pickens has a surprise for David, a baby she claims was passed along to her “by an angel”. With a history of non-consensual baby acquisition from the Promise Falls Hospital, Marla could be up to her old tricks. It is only when a woman is found stabbed to death across town and her baby missing that the pieces fall into place in a resounding fashion, leaving David to wonder if his cousin might be a cold-hearted killer. Pleading ignorance and sticking to her story, Marla cannot understand what she’s done wrong and David’s reporter senses begin to buzz. What if someone else in Promise Falls is trying to set her up, preying on her pass weakness? As David begins to probe further, shelving the issues with his son and parents, there lies a truth he could not see coming. Barclay crafts a great story, told from multiple angles, to lure the reader into wondering what could happen next, then chooses a path that was obstructed and forges on. Not to be missed and surely the great opening to a series.

Barclay utlises a formula in his novels that fans know well: present many characters, use numerous storylines to keep them fresh, then tie off the main plot with a twist no one saw coming, even if you paid attention. Barclay then weaves in some thrills and spills, while keeping the reader in a crazed fit of needing to know. Even though the formula can be applied to all his thrillers, I get sucked in by the obscure path every time, and I love it. The stories are unique and the happenstance keeps readers from getting bored by the same stepped process. Readers can join the Barclay train at any time and not miss a beat, though his sometimes minute references to past stories are not lost on long-time fans. A stellar writer who has a style all his own, while not straying away from what he does best; confound the reader to the final period. 

Kudos, Mr. Barclay for this excellent novel. You make all Canadians proud, but also anyone who loves a good thriller and can handle a night of lamp-huddled page turning to find out how wrong preconceived notions can be.

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