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Parting Shot


Parting Shot

Linwood Barclay just cannot stay away from Promise Falls. The small New England town with a reputation for large-scale tragedies that are documented in the Promise Falls trilogy --- BROKEN PROMISE, FAR FROM TRUE and THE TWENTY-THREE --- has plenty of grist left for the mill. And why not? Life goes on, and so do the individual dramas and conflicts that cross, intersect and collide --- literally --- in confined spaces over time. So it is that Barclay returns to the somewhat notorious corporation limits of Promise Falls with the newly published PARTING SHOT, and incidentally gives his legion of readers what may be his best book to date.

Barclay sets his latest novel approximately one year after the events of THE TWENTY-THREE, and along the way reigns in his penchant for letting a number of characters run free throughout a complex plot. As a result, PARTING SHOT is a bit more accessible to the casual reader than the trilogy was, which is not to say that what we have here is simple or by the numbers. The book sinks the hook early, pulls you in and propels you along. It begins by resolving an issue raised near the end of THE TWENTY-THREE. Detective Barry Duckworth, who seemed at or near death’s door at the conclusion of the trilogy, is very much alive, if not a bit worse for wear, one year later. Though understandably a bit gun shy, Duckworth is tasked with investigating an unusual incident involving a young man named Brian Gaffney, who is found wandering around downtown in a disoriented state, with his back bearing a crude and cryptic tattoo. Brian, who has some developmental issues, has no idea what happened to him or what the tattoo could mean.

"Linwood Barclay is a master at keeping his plots twisting and turning, and PARTING SHOT is no exception, given that he throws curve balls into the story right up to the final sentence."

Meanwhile, veteran private investigator Cal Weaver finds himself involved in the fallout of a notorious crime. New York State and, indeed, the nation had been embroiled in what the media referred to as the “Big Baby” case. The incident concerned a teenager from Albany named Jeremy Pilford, who was tried and convicted of killing a young girl while driving drunk. His attorney presented a defense of mitigating circumstances --- that his upbringing by a mother who made excuses for his every failure made him less than culpable in the horrific death. Jeremy was found guilty but did not have to serve any jail time, resulting in reactions of outrage throughout the community. As a result, he and his family are targeted for harassment of all sorts.

It develops that Jeremy’s grand-aunt is Madeline Plimpton, a prominent Promise Falls resident. She moves Jeremy and his mother to Promise Falls in hopes of keeping them out of the spotlight. Cal, still grieving the deaths of his wife and son from years before, is drawn into a family drama when he is retained by Madeline to be the teenager’s bodyguard. The plan has mixed results, leading him to take the young man out of Promise Falls to what he hopes will be an undisclosed location. Meanwhile, Cal finds the story leading up to Jeremy’s arrest troubling and begins to quietly investigate matters on his own. The separate cases start to intersect, with each containing information pertinent to the other, while Duckworth and Cal attempt to do their jobs while keeping citizens --- and themselves --- alive as they slowly arrive at the ugly truth.

Linwood Barclay is a master at keeping his plots twisting and turning, and PARTING SHOT is no exception, given that he throws curve balls into the story right up to the final sentence. Those who are unacquainted with the previous novels set in Promise Falls will find this book a good place to become intrigued, as Barclay provides just enough in the narrative regarding what has gone before to bring fans and newcomers up to date. Additionally, PARTING SHOT is one of those rare longer books that reads quickly, and not for lack of substance either.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on November 3, 2017

Parting Shot
by Linwood Barclay

  • Publication Date: October 31, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday Canada
  • ISBN-10: 0385690231
  • ISBN-13: 9780385690232