Saturday, December 17, 2016

Review of "The Twenty-Three" by Linwood Barclay




This is the third book in Linwood Barclay's "Promise Falls" trilogy. If you haven't read the first two books this review might contain some (minor) spoilers.

The upstate New York town of Promise Falls has no end of troubles. An unknown perpetrator has been orchestrating all kinds of havoc related to the number 23, including: hanging 23 dead squirrels on a fence; giving three mannequins a ride in car 23 of a defunct ferris wheel; sending a burning #23 bus careening down the street; blowing up the screen of a drive-in theater at 23:23 (military time); and more.

On top of that, several women in Promise Falls have been killed in a ritualistic fashion - possibly by a serial killer.

Unfortunately there's worse to come. On Saturday, May 23 - at the start of the Memorial Day weekend - hundreds of people in Promise Falls become violently ill. The victims become weak and disoriented; vomit profusely; become hypotensive (low blood pressure); and in many cases die. Detective Barry Duckworth - a capable cop - traces the cause of the outbreak to the town's water supply, which has been poisoned.

As sick and dead people pile up Detective Duckworth and his newly promoted assistant, Detective Angus Carlson, have their hands full - dealing with victims, talking to family members, interviewing witnesses, etc. To add to the mayhem, a teenage boy is missing and a college girl has been stabbed to death - possibly by the serial killer.

So Detective Duckworth is very busy - investigating the 'number 23' crimes; looking into the water debacle; and trying to solve the 'murdered women' cases. To add to the sleuth's troubles, his wife and doctor are trying to get him to go on a diet....but it's hard to give up those morning donuts.

Many colorful characters from the first 2/3 of the trilogy are on hand, such as: Randy Finley - the sleazy former mayor of Promise Falls who'd do anything to get re-elected; private investigator Cal Weaver - who has a moral conundrum about outing a murderer; Crystal - a smart autistic 11-year-old girl; Samantha (Sam) Worthington - a laundromat manager whose in-laws tried to snatch her son and have her killed; David Harwood - a former journalist who's romantically involved with Sam and (reluctantly) works for Randy's mayoral campaign; Don - David's father who has a guilty secret; and Marla - David's cousin who recently acquired a baby son (it's a long story).

For me "The Twenty-Three" is just okay. It's a workmanlike conclusion to the trilogy but lacks a certain level of excitement. Moreover, the solutions to the mysteries feel a bit anti-climactic.

One thing I do like about the trilogy is the author's technique of resolving dangerous situations quickly. If a character gets in trouble it's over pretty fast....for better or worse. I like this much better than hostages being locked in a basement for months.....or other plot devices of that nature.

Overall, the three books of the trilogy tell an engaging story. Recommended to mystery fans

(Note: there are some minor unresolved issues at the end of book three, which apparently will be resolved in a future volume. This is cheating, since this is a trilogy.....not a quadrilogy. Can anyone say $$$ ?)

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