During the local drive-in's last-ever triple feature, a mysterious explosion topples the screen, killing four people. It's not the only bizarre incident shaking up the New York town of Promise Falls, a popular suicide spot where all lives seem at risk.
A few hours after the drive-in disaster, which some locals insist was an act of terrorism—bad news for Egyptian-born bookstore owner Naman Safar—someone breaks into the home of one of the victims and steals revealing DVDs from a hidden sex lair. Police Detective Barry Duckworth already has his hands full with a series of seemingly related killings of young women. PI Cal Weaver, who is trying to get over the murders of his wife and son, is busy protecting Samantha, a laundromat owner whose ex-husband is serving time for a bank stickup. David Harwood, a former journalist reluctantly working for loathsome former mayor Randall Finley, has to explain to his son why his late mother killed a man and cut off his hand. Though Samantha is a Philip Roth fan, Barclay's dark and dizzy tour de force is like a Richard Russo novel gone off the rails. Its blue-collar setting is a bottomless pit of nefarious acts including baby theft and kidnapping. The only true innocent is Crystal, a girl with special abilities whose capacity for living inside her head must be regarded as a gift.
Barclay's sequel to Broken Promise (2015)—the third book in the series will reveal why the number 23 turns up in all kinds of bad situations here—trades in thrills for black humor. But it's a crowd-pleaser nonetheless from one of the most reliable craftsmen in crime fiction.