The Twenty Three – Linwood Barclay

THE TORTURED tale of troubled town Promise Falls comes to a conclusion in this final hardback in Barclay’s trilogy.

We finally discover who has been tormenting this supposedly tranquil corner of smalltown America with an escalating series of attacks.

But along the way, as in the previous two novels Promise Falls and Far From True, a number of residents find their dark secrets are revealed.

The killer began their campaign with petty incidents such as killing squirrels before sending a flaming truck down the main street.

In Far From Home a drive-in cinema was blown up, causing the first deaths, and The Twenty Three is dominated by a mysterious chemical or poison attack that puts hundreds in hospital and leads to a massive death toll.

This is the biggest canvas that Barclay has displayed his convoluted storylines on, but everything that makes him such a compulsive writer is here.

In his world of picket fences and apple pies everyone has a dark secret, some past or present crime that they’re trying to hide behind all-American values.

Everything comes unstuck, and people get hurt as the wrong doers desperately try to protect themselves and their loved ones.

So on one hand we have a massive, potentially terrorist-organised incident, on the other we have normal people trying to live a normal life despite economic, health or marital difficulty.

While most of Barclay’s novels have been highly-efficient page-turners focusing on one main protagonist and possibly a couple of subplots, the Promise Falls trilogy has a large cast of characters, including some returning from earlier novels.

At times it’s been difficult to follow what’s going on, even though some of the plot strands have reached their conclusion at the end of the previous two books.

The rest of the plot strands are tied up in The Twenty Three, mostly in a satisfactory way, and the story certainly moves swiftly.

This is a novel well worth reading for those who like Barclay, Harlen Coben or Gone Girl, but it’s best to read all three Promise Falls novels one after the other, so you understand what on earth is going on.

David Knights