Parting Shot (Promise Falls #4), by Linwood Barclay

Nine stars

Linwood Barclay adds to his already popular Promise Falls series with this latest novel, a mystery that takes readers on an interesting ride into the world of revenge. When Cal Weaver is hired to protect Jeremy Pilford, who was accused of backing over his girlfriend when extremely intoxicated, he cannot predict the degree of difficulty this assignment brings. Seen as having been coddled by his over-protective family, Jeremy earned the nickname ‘Big Baby’ and has been the victim of significant online mockery. The barbs that have sailed around through social media are beginning to take shape in real life, with rocks tossed through windows and death threats showing up in various forms. Weaver decides to help shield Jeremy by taking him into protective custody, at least until things settle down. Meanwhile, Detective Barry Duckworth is sent to investigate an assault that has everyone very confused. Brian Gaffney has been found wandering around Promise Falls, unable to remember what’s happened to him for the past few days. What’s even more concerning is the vulgar phrase that has been tattooed to his back; something apparently related to a dog he killed years ago. As Duckworth begins poking around, he discovers that Gaffney was last seen in a dive bar, though video surveillance sheds some interesting new light on the entire investigation. Nothing seem to make sense, but Duckworth will not give up, even as he seems to be stepping on some familial toes by pressing hard to solve this latest case. When a body is discovered in an abandoned car, things take a significant turn and Duckworth notices an anomaly that might explain the Gaffney assault. While Cal Weaver hides away with Jeremy, they revisit some of the key aspects to the case and something does not seem right. When Duckworth and Weaver are eventually able to compare notes, everything gets a little clearer, only to go opaque once again. Is there something going on in Promise Falls that will halt both Duckworth and Weaver from solving their respective cases? In a style all his own, Barclay pulls the reader into the middle of this wonderful story and will not let go until the very end, where a cliffhanger awaits. Promise Falls series fans will surely enjoy this one, which stands outside the professed ‘trilogy’, but still has close tie-ins throughout the narrative.

I have long been a Linwood Barclay fan, especially his Promise Falls work. The psychological aspects keep me wondering and the slow development is done in such a methodical manner than I cannot help but want more, even when the final chapter is complete. The varied cast in the novels is effectively used, with a strong focus on the Duckworth and Weaver characters. Both men have made their marks in the aforementioned series trilogy, but this novel allows them some additional growth. Barclay surrounds them with a number of repeat minor characters, as well as some new faces to keep the story fresh. Backstories and present-day development is thorough and highly useful to the attentive reader. The story itself, two mysteries that soon find common ground, is quite intriguing, especially with the other branch-off plots that thicken the overall delivery. Barclay is able to keep the different narratives running in parallel without confusing the reader too much. Add to that, things flow so effortlessly that the reader cannot help but want to forge onwards just to see how it will all play out. Wonderfully presented and filled with a number of poignant references to past Promise Falls events, Barclay has surely kept his fans appeased with this novel and is sure to find many new readers rushing to find his books in their various forms.

Kudos, Mr. Barclay, for keeping me hooked from the get-go. I hope you have not ended this trip to upstate New York, as I have become quite fond of Promise Falls.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: