The Twenty-Three (Promise Hills Trilogy #3), by Linwood Barclay

Eight stars

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.

In the finale of his Promise Falls trilogy, Barclay ties everything together while impressing the reader with a fast-paced novel that is sure to leave as many questions lingering as it supplies answers. Still smarting from the recent drive-in bombing, Promise Falls must face another life-altering event. The water supply appears to be causing scores of residents to become ill, some showing flu-like symptoms while others die from the severity of their exposure. As the hospitals fill up, mayoral candidate and local businessman, Randall Finley, is on hand to provide bottled water as he shows his compassionate side, while trying to win over the electorate and regain his place as mayor. However, the authorities remain baffled by events, especially Detective Barry Duckworth, who traces the contamination back to the water treatment facility. Even after he learns what’s gone into the water supply, Duckworth is no closer to learning who might be responsible. Across town, on the campus of Thackeray College, a student in the middle of intercession classes is found murdered in her dorm room. What makes this all the more disturbing is that her body is found with the same wounds as two other Promise Falls women over the past few years. These women played a prominent role in the community (as well as in the past Barclay novels) and with the killer still on the loose, Duckworth and the rest of the limited police force must juggle this case as the city teeters on the edge. The further Duckworth probes, the stronger the connection to past events that have baffled the authorities, all tied to the number twenty-three. Two cases, hundreds of bodies, and a city on the verge of collapse. Barclay has laid the groundwork for an explosive final novel in this series and he lives up to all expectations. A stellar piece of work that forces the reader to remain attentive to the final sentence.

Barclay’s writing abilities have never been in doubt, but this collection, three novels and one short story, proves to be some of his best work in years. Parachuting the reader into small-town New York State is one thing, but his ability to present a powerful set of storylines that all come together so effortlessly makes this reading experience one that surpasses many novels on the market together. While some authors are able to sustain great characters throughout a series, Barclay not only offers up a collection of unique and interesting individuals to push the story along, but utilises them all in some form or another. The reader will rarely come across a character whose importance is not highlighted at some point in the series. While the novels have been spaced out over time to allow the author and publisher to develop them for their timed release, the narrative pulls past events into the present, giving the reader a brief recollection of what has happened to keep them from becoming too lost. Additionally, that the three novels take place in the span of a short period of time makes the intricate nature of the narrative all the more powerful. Barclay is able to literally pick up where the previous story left off and keeps the reader as enthralled as if they had put down one book to begin the next. This is surely the sign of a talented wordsmith and one who has honed his craft over many years. Few readers will leave this series feeling let down or underwhelmed. Quite the opposite, as they are sure to beg for more, even though it’s quite apparent all good things must come to an end.

Kudos, Mr. Barclay for this wonderful novel and the larger trilogy. I am highly impressed with this and cannot wait to read more of what you have to offer.