The Twenty-Three by Linwood Barclay

The Twenty-Three is the concluding volume in the Promise Falls Trilogy by Linwood Barclay and it’s one of the best literary thriller trilogies of the last several years. Each of the earlier books in the series has a mystery which is solved by the end of the novel, while also furthering a larger mystery which comes to a head in this concluding volume.

The Twenty-Three starts with the people of Promise Falls waking on a Saturday morning to find that their water supply has been contaminated with deadly consequences. Hundreds of victims overwhelm emergency services and hamper the investigation into discovering the perpetrator. Simultaneously, a homicide victim turns up that points to a serial killer in their midst. Clues from the first two novels center around the number “23”. Discovering the significance of that number as well as exploring who stands to benefit from the disasters lead inexorably to the unmasking of the killer, but how many more people will die along the way?

Barclay creates a cast of interesting and well-drawn characters. One of his most impressive talents is in describing objectionable, even loathsome characters. The character of former and erstwhile future Mayor of Promise Falls, Randall Finley, is an incredible creation. He’s an immoral, opportunistic and manipulative person who you want to be guilty of something, even if you are never sure if he is. Other characters such as Detective Barry Duckworth, private investigator Cal Weaver, and former journalist David Harwood are all great characters in their own way as well. Each of them have stories that continue from earlier books and that come to conclusion in this story.  The central mystery as well as the separate crime that takes place in this book are nicely wrapped up by the end of the book. The only criticism is that there are so many plot threads in play that not all of them are wrapped up with the same level of satisfaction. The plot involving Harwood in particular ends somewhat limply. Nevertheless, the book and the series builds to an exciting conclusion.

The audio version of the book is narrated by Richard Poe and Brian O’Neill. Both do a great job with pacing the book and voicing strong and distinct characters. They convey character emotions convincingly and are a complement to the story.

The Twenty-Three is a very good book and concludes an even better series. The series is best read in order. Highly recommended.

I was fortunate to be provided a copy of the book by the publisher.

Description: Everything has been leading to this.
It’s the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, May 23rd, and the small town of Promise Falls, New York, has found itself in the midst of a full-blown catastrophe. Hundreds of people are going to the hospital with similar flu-like symptoms—and dozens have died. Investigators quickly zero in on the water supply. But the question for many, including private investigator Cal Weaver, remains: Who would benefit from a mass poisoning of this town?
Meanwhile, Detective Barry Duckworth is faced with another problem. A college student has been murdered, and he’s seen the killer’s handiwork before—in the unsolved homicides of two other women in town. Suddenly, all the strange things that have happened in the last month start to add up…
Bloody mannequins found in car “23” of an abandoned Ferris wheel…a fiery, out-of-control bus with “23” on the back, that same number on the hoodie of a man accused of assault…

The motive for harming the people of Promise Falls points to the number 23—and working out why will bring Duckworth closer to death than he’s ever been before…

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