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Cover Barclay The 23

I really enjoyed the first two novels in the Promise Falls Trilogy by Linwood Barclay, Broken Promise (2015) and Far From True (2016). There were some things left hanging at the end of the most recent one, so I was happy to have the opportunity to receive an advance copy in exchange with my honest review (thank you, NetGalley and Berkley Publishing!!)

As this story opens, it hasn’t been too long since the disastrous events of Far From True (including the fatal collapse of the drive-in theater screen). It’s now Memorial Day weekend, and on Saturday hundreds of people start showing up at the local hospital with what first looks like flu…then dozens die. It looks to many like the water supply is tainted, but the motive isn’t clear.

Familiar characters (to those who have read the prior novels in the series) crop up: Private investigator Cal Weaver, police Detective Barry Duckworth, former reporter David Harwood, and the somewhat sleazy former mayor, whose ownership of the local spring water bottling company puts him in line to profit from the disaster). There is also the return of “23,” which is seen in several places: bloody mannequins are found in car #23 of the ferris wheel at an abandoned amusement park, 23 squirrels are killed, a buse is set on fire and sent down the road with #23 painted on it…and it’s May 23rd.

In addition to the plague-like outbreak, a college student is found dead, and the death is reminiscent of the deaths of other women in town. Things start to add up, but there seem to be many possibilities for murderer and motive. Can’t say too much more without spoiling something for someone, but for fans of mystery, psychological suspense, and Linwood Barclay, this one is a good choice.

I appreciated the varied points of view, and while I am usually not a big fan of many short chapters, it seems to work well in this case. I expected complete resolution to EVERYTHING, being the third in a trilogy, but there may be room to tell more stories about the people and events in Promise Falls.

While it is a trilogy, each of the books works as a standalone, so don’t be hesitant to read this because you haven’t read the first two in the series. I don’t know how to give this one 4.5 stars, and it isn’t quite a 5-star for me (as a teacher I was sort of known as a tough grader!), so this one ends up at four stars…even though it’s really better than that.