More mass mayhem awaits Barclay fans in the final installment of his Promise Falls trilogy, in which bodies stack up “in the morgue like firewood before the winter."
Upstate New York detective Barry Duckworth already has his hands full dealing with the sex crimes, campus murders, and drive-in disaster of Barclay's previous novel, Far from True (2016). The new book opens with an elaborate cross-section of town residents getting violently sick and falling over in critical condition. In one of the worst disasters in New York history, more than 100 people die. The immediate thought is that someone tainted the town water supply. Could it have been the loathsome former mayor Randall Finley, who operates a water bottling company? But water isn't the only thing killing people on this Memorial Day weekend. A knife-wielding criminal is on the loose, targeting women. With so many more people losing their spouses, their boyfriends and girlfriends, their parents and grandparents, you wonder how Promise Falls can possibly survive—though as orphaned 11-year-old Crystal says to DI Cal Weaver, aware of the murder charges that had been hanging over her mother before she died of the tainted water, "I guess there's one good thing....My mom won't ever have to go to jail." Barclay is one of the best storytellers in the thriller genre, and there are certainly pleasures to be drawn from this tale. But there are so many characters, most of them thinly drawn, that it's difficult to keep up with who's who and even who killed whom. (It's best to read the series from the beginning.) And anyone expecting a satisfying payoff to the mystery of the recurring number 23 will be disappointed.
People die in large quantities in this deviously plotted but overly sprawling effort.