Sunday, November 27, 2016

Broken Promise

by Linwood Barclay
Penguin Random House     2015
499 pages     Mystery

"Oh what tangled webs we weave, When first we practice to deceive."

David Harwood is a widowed newspaper reporter with a nine-year-old son, Ethan. He just moved back to his hometown of Promise Falls, and in with his parents. He has gotten a job as a reporter with the Promise Falls newspaper, but on his first day back at work, the newspaper folds, and he is left without a job. The next day, some very strange occurrences happen in Promise Falls that indicate to the community and to the reader that this peaceful little town is anything but peaceful.

The first major event occurs when David goes to take some food to his cousin Marla who has been suffering from depression and other mental issues following the death of her unborn baby. To his surprise, David finds Marla taking care of a baby boy she calls Matthew, who, she says, was delivered to her by an "angel". Later David finds little Matthew's mother dead on her kitchen floor. Other mysterious events happen on that first day, including 23 dead squirrels hung on tree branches, a Ferris wheel with three dummies riding on it at a defunct amusement park, and a rapist killed by a campus policeman on the university campus. And somehow the number 23 has something to do with all of it. David sets out to figure out what happened as a way to protect his cousin, Marla, from the possibility of being arrested for murder. 

I had to force myself to go to sleep at night. Broken Promise deals with such seemingly ordinary people, but the book is so gripping that the pages seem to turn themselves. One of the things that Barclay does really well is to develop characters, and although there are many characters in and out of the story line, they are so well defined that seldom do you forget who "so and so" is. Among the great characters are the local detective, Barry Duckworth, the former mayor thinking about running again, Randall Finlay, and Dr. Jim Sturgess, the local GP who seems to be everywhere. One reviewer says: "His descriptions and characterizations are never overcooked, though, and he gives the reader just enough of each to create a vivid picture without ever holding up the remarkable narrative pace." 

I spent 18 years living in a small town, just a little smaller than Promise Falls, and I am well aware of the secrets that small towns contain. When you move into a small town, you discover the secrets only little by little. Much of the drama is under the surface, just waiting to explode. Houses where people died; family members in trouble; jail terms whispered about; the local liquor store owner selling to underage teenagers. The secrets in Promise Falls, however, are much more startling and scary, and they don't all get solved in one volume. Lots of strings are left untied. 

Broken Promise is the first of the Promise Falls trilogy by Linwood Barclay. The second is Far from True, and the final volume is The Twenty Three. So there are over 1000 pages before we find out the significance of the number 23.  I heartily recommend this series. Just allow a lot of time to read it because you can scarcely do anything else!

I received these books from the Bookreporter website as a prize in a promotion. Am I ever glad I got to read them.

Here is a cool trailer for Broken Promise.
Liinwood Barclay's website.

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