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Tuesday 20 December 2016

‘The Twenty Three’ by Linwood Barclay

Published by Orion,
22 September 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-4091-4596-7

I own to always being excited when I see a new book by Linwood Barclay. I am a great fan. The first paragraph had me immediately hooked when I learned that Patricia Henderson was among the first to die! But by page 10 I was recognising characters names.  Closer inspection of the book revealed in small letters that The Twenty Three was the final book in the Promise Falls trilogy. Investigation of my shelves further revealed that I had read the first one Broken Promises, but somehow missed the second in the trilogy – Far From True. The joy of technology - a few clicks and it was on my kindle.

Having now read all three I can attest that they can be read as standalone’s, but I personally think that there is better continuity if they are read in order.

The Twenty Three opens at breakfast time on a Saturday morning in Promise Falls.  First the shower, coffee, breakfast, then life spirals away, vomiting, heart racing, itching, people dial 911 for assistance but no one answers. People crawl out into the street seeking help, and there they die. Those lucky enough to have someone to drive then to the hospital find total chaos as hundreds of people converge on the Emergency Room.  The emergency services, police and the medical staff are all completely overwhelmed as they have no idea what they are dealing with.

There are many story lines and multiple third party narrators.  As the book progresses Barclay smoothly inserts recaps of the characters’ lives in the previous two books.  But the main character Detective Barry Duckworth tells his story in the first person.  He is already investigating the brutal murders of two young women and an explosion at the town’s drive-in which has killed four people.  His only help is newly promoted Angus Carlson who has much to learn.  But there are more deaths and not only from the mysterious illness which has struck down the residents of Promise Falls.

The tension never lets up as Barry tries to piece together and find a pattern in the odd incidents that are occurring in Promise Falls.  He keeps coming back to ‘Twenty Three’ Just what is the significance of 23?

The plotting is superb, and although most threads were satisfactorily resolved, I felt that some were left hanging.   Could there be another book? Totally gripping this book is highly recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Linwood Barclay was born 1955 in Darien, Connecticut.  After graduating high school Barclay studied literature at Trent University in Peterborough. While at university, he began a correspondence with Ross Macdonald that proved inspirational for Barclay. They met once, at which time Macdonald inscribed one of his books to Barclay, "For Linwood, who will, I hope, someday outwrite me." After graduation, he could not sell any of his novels so he found work on a number of local newspapers, starting his journalism career in 1977 at the Peterborough Examiner, moved on to a small Oakville paper in 1979, and then to the Toronto Star in 1981 where he was, successively, assistant city editor, news editor, chief copy editor and Life section editor. He lives in Toronto with his wife, Neetha and two children.

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