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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Review of Today's New Release: "Broken Promise" by Linwood Barclay

Product Details

2.5 Stars

I wish I had been forewarned that this book is really part of a series.  There are repeated references to an earlier book, Never Look Away, which I have not read.  Then it turns out that this latest book has an indefinite ending; readers will have to read Barclay’s next book, Far From True, which is scheduled for release in March of 2016, to find explanations for many of the mysterious events in Broken Promise.

David Harwood has brought his son to Promise Falls, NY; the two have moved in with David’s parents while he tries to find work.  He discovers that his cousin Marla is caring for a baby boy only to learn that the mother of that infant has just been murdered.  As the police, led by Detective Duckworth, investigate, David tries to prove his cousin innocent of murder and kidnapping.  At the same time there are other mysterious goings-on (animal killings, threatening warnings).

The main story involving Marla and the murder of Rosemary Gaynor is predictable.  From virtually the beginning, I had figured out the broad outlines of that plot.  Everything is just too obvious, and there are too many coincidences and unbelievable occurrences.  For example, both the medical examiner and the lead detective had to have been away during an earlier unsolved murder case, yet the father of that victim is friends with David’s father.  Would a nursing home hire an illegal immigrant?  A woman accuses a man of having sex with her “right there in the kitchen” when she is the one who had insisted the act be done in the kitchen, “’Right here’”? 

The ending is disappointing.  It’s as annoying as a then-he-woke-up-and-discovered-it-was-all-a-dream ending, except that this one is clearly intended to encourage purchase of the next novel.  Though the sequel will have to be read to find out the complete explanation, this book’s ending suggests that the solution to a case will be another coincidence.  I actually found the #23 subplots to be the most intriguing, but they are left unresolved. 

Characterization is also weak.  David is a bland, insipid person so it is difficult to care about him.  Everyone else in the town has deep, dark secrets.  One man replies, “’Don’t be so sure’” when he is told, “’You’re a good man.”  And what about this loaded conversation a man has at the grave of his murdered daughter:  “’Whoever did this to you, he didn’t just take you away from me.  He killed your mother, too.  It just took longer where she was concerned.  It was a broken heart that caused her cancer.  I know it.  And I guess, if a broken heart can kill ya, he’ll get me eventually too.  Of course, it wasn’t just him that broke my heart.  There’s plenty of blame to go around.  Truth is, I’m guessing it won’t be all that long before I’m joining you.’”  Certainly, the altercation David’s son has at school seems an obvious setup to introduce another character with a checkered past and difficult present. 

Many people rave about Barclay’s novels, so I was anxious to read one.  Unfortunately, it left me feeling let down, as if I were the victim of a broken promise.  The book is a fast, easy read, but it also lacks substance.  There are too many characters so none are developed fully, and there are too many subplots, so there is a lack of focus.  Then the final three sentences are so melodramatic that I am not left anticipating the sequel. 

Note:  I received an ARC of the book from the publisher via NetGalley.