Best-selling crime writer Linwood Barclay’s new thriller is set in the small, upstate New York town of Promise Falls, where it seems bodies are appearing as fast as local businesses are closing.
On its last night of operation, the iconic Constellation Drive-In folds in a literal sense when an explosion causes the four-storey movie screen to collapse onto cars in the front row.
Four people are killed and this is just the start of the awful things in store for the folk of Promise Falls.
It seems someone is unhappy with the local populace and is out to wreak revenge. There’s a strange fixation with the number 23: it featured on the hoodie of a recently shot university student who had been terrorising women, there’s 23 dead squirrels strung up on a fence, and three mannequins appear hanging from cart 23 on a Ferris wheel).
There’s also the discovery of a secret adult “play room” and missing home movies, a particularly brutal child custody battle, a former mayor out to regain his position, and some unsolved gruesome murders. Safe to say, there’s a lot going on in this little town.
Far From True is the second in a trilogy set in Promise Falls, something that’s not apparent from the book blurb, although the sense of arriving late to the party soon becomes apparent.
Barclay recycles characters from previous stories, including private investigator Cal Weaver, Detective Barry Duckworth, and former news reporter turned political hander David Harwood. These characters’ back-stories, including how Cal’s wife and son were tragically murdered, are filtered in as the reader needs to know them. The effect is a little discombobulating, because every step forward in the current goings-on requires reams of explanation about what’s already transpired – and as already mentioned, there’s a lot going on.
Barclay is a story master, so despite the vast number of plot lines, the reader doesn’t get lost and the effect is a pacey, plot-driven story. The downside, however, is that it’s difficult to connect with and really care about any of the characters in this story. Just as I was forming a bond with the protagonist in the first chapter, he disappeared; the same thing kept happening throughout the novel.
If you’d like character “buy-in”, it’s probably advisable to start with the first in this trilogy (Broken Promise). If you don’t care about that, and just want a fast-paced, well-written thriller, go ahead and jump straight into Far From True.