First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Linwood Barclay, and Berkley Publishing Group for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with this review.
From the author of well-crafted psychological thrillers comes another novel set in the bucolic town of Promise Falls. Picking up days after the previous novel ended, Barclay parachutes readers into a place still coming to terms with a collection of noteworthy events: a slain rapist on the university campus, a baby swapping scheme that went awry, and a downturn in the economy that has local business pulling out. After a freak event at the local drive-in theatre leaves four dead, the town is left to wonder if this was an accident or another item to add to the tragic narrative. Local private investigator, Cal Weaver, is approached by the daughter of one of the drive-in victims to explore a break-in at her father’s home. What begins as a crime without apparent motive (and loss of property) soon spins into the revelation of an alternative lifestyle group alive and well under the radar within Promise Falls. A collection of DVDs has been taken from a ‘secret room’ whose content leaves little to the imagination, but the rationale is anyone’s guess. As Weaver pieces the clues together, he cannot help but speculate that the contents of the discs contain vital information that surpasses their intrinsically erotic value. Detective Barry Duckworth wrestles with two unsolved murders that bear great similarities, though the prime suspect has an iron-clad alibi. Could there be something deeper that Duckworth cannot see, or is a murder still on the loose in Promise Falls? These and many other sinister storylines that include a host of characters, each with their own backstory, permits the reader to follow plot lines down the rabbit hole, only to realise how they link together, at the least expected moment. Barclay weaves a wonderful follow-up to his explosive BROKEN PROMISE, which grips the reader until the final pages and leaves them to wonder just how sure they are of where this narrative will end.
While Barclay is not new to the psychological thriller genre, this novel (and the others in the series) propel him into a league all his own. Placing the story mere weeks after BROKEN PROMISE, the reader has not yet had time to catch their breath or construct a viable explanation as to what they’ve just finished reading. With a large cast of characters, the story is able to expand on numerous levels and pushes the narrative boundaries, such that there are numerous plots worth exploring. Barclay sows the seeds for further exploration in the next novel, but also revisits some key aspects to past stories that keep the reader connection and on the ball throughout. Exploring the narrative from Cal Weaver’s perspective, as well as that of a passive overseer, the reader gains additional insight in the lead-up to what is sure to be an explosive next novel, where the ’23’ concept may finally be revealed. Only the attentive reader need indulge, as there are numerous references to the previous pieces, with only a sprinkle of reminiscent breadcrumbs to help the reader along. Novels of this calibre are gifts for the reader, though waiting for the next instalment could drive anyone around the bend!
Kudos, Mr. Barclay for such an addictive piece of work. I am hooked and can only hope that you will continue to dazzle and intrigue as you build on this series for your avid fans.