This sequel to Broken Promise picks up where the first book ended. Two women in Promise Falls, New York have been brutally killed in a disturbingly similar fashion - Olivia Fisher several years ago and Rosemary Gaynor just recently. In addition the town has experienced a rash of crimes connected with the number 23.
As this second book in the trilogy opens a car full of boisterous youths is heading for the Constellation Drive-In Theater for it's last show ever. As the boys are trying to get past the gatekeeper - with one boy hiding in the trunk just for fun - there's an explosion and the movie screen collapses. Two cars are squashed, four people are killed, and many movie goers are injured. As it turns out the catastrophe occurred at 11:23 P.M. (or 23:23 in military time).
Detective Barry Duckworth is the lead investigator for all the crimes, a high stress job that interferes with his (supposed) weight loss regime. While Duckworth's wife gives him grapefruit and skinless chicken, the detective sneakily eats hamburgers and pie on the job. LOL.
Duckworth soon discovers that one couple killed at the drive-in was local celebrity Adam Chalmers and his wife Miriam. In his youth Adam belonged to a criminal biker gang but gave it up to become a successful (and wealthy) writer....and Miriam is his beautiful third wife.
As the story unfolds private detective Cal Weaver (a character in previous Barclay novels) is caught up in the drama when Adam's Chalmers' daughter, Lucy Brighton, hires him. She thinks someone has been sneaking around her deceased father's house. Weaver makes a startling discovery in the Chalmers' home, a finding that soon interests the police as well.
Various characters from the first book are on hand once again. Former journalist David Harwood continues to work for slimy disgraced ex-mayor Randall Finley, who's determined to get back into office any way he can; the scene where Finley announces his candidacy is priceless and funny. Samantha Worthington is still being harassed by her jailed ex-husband's parents, who are trying to wrest away custody of her son Carl; this leads to plenty of excitement and danger. And Clive Duncomb, Thackeray College's head of security, is once again hiding things from the 'real cops.' Clive, who thinks he's smarter than everyone else, is a truly unlikable guy.
An array of minor characters from book one also make an appearance. And - for those who like that kind of thing - the story also has a couple of budding romances. I don't like love affairs in mystery books but these aren't graphic or heavy handed.
The book is an arresting page turner that kept my interest throughout. I have to admit, though, that one of the 'secrets' in the book stretched my suspension of disbelief to the breaking point. As with Broken Promise, the end of the book leaves things unresolved. I look forward to finishing the trilogy to discover exactly what's going on. I have some theories....but we'll see.
Note: Though this book could probably be read as a standalone I'd strongly recommend readers
begin with book one of the trilogy.