5 stars out of 5
Wow! And when I add it to the other two books in the Promise Falls Trilogy, it's wow, Wow and WOW!
The title refers to the number 23, the number of a Ferris wheel car in which bloody mannequins were found, and on the back of a fiery bus (see Far From True, the first in the trilogy, and Broken Promise, the second. In this one, all hell breaks loose on May 23, when hundreds of Promise Falls residents are becoming violently ill - many dying - suspected to be a result of something nasty in the water. Test results are affirmative - someone who knew what he or she was doing definitely poisoned the city's water supply. A former mayor who's running for the office again owns a bottled water company and immediately offers free bottles to the residents (as long as someone from the media is present), making a couple of his opponents - including former journalist David Harwood, who now works for the ex-mayor - suspect he might have had a hand in the disaster.
But that's not all that's going down. A female student at Thackeray College is found murdered in a pattern similar to that of two other women (see previous books). Is there a serial killer in their midst? Could the murders somehow be related to the poisoned water? That's an answer Detective Barry Duckworth (and concerned readers) want to know. He's been working on solving the first two murders since Book One, and the latest prompts him to step up the investigation before someone else bites the dust.
As the end of this book approached, most of the loose ends were tied and cliffhangers resolved from the first two books. Great, I said, nodding my head vigorously - and then in the final couple of chapters came big surprise after big surprise, making my mouth drop as well. The ending left a bit of the future of Promise Falls and at least one major character to the imagination, but since this is the third book in the trilogy, I made an educated guess that there won't be any more and came to my own conclusions.
A word to the wise on that score: I advise (make that strongly advise) reading all three books in order - and timewise, as close together as possible. I read the first two in succession, and when I was offered an advance copy in exchange for an honest review by the author and publisher (via NetGalley), I was elated. But as soon as I started it, I realized I'd forgotten a ton in the nearly nine months between it and the second one. Granted, I'm old and have to consult my computer to be sure what day it is, but I really struggled to remember what happened and who did it from the other two books even though the author does a pretty good job of providing background.
Bottom line? This is a don't-miss trilogy that, IMHO, ranks right up there with Stephen King's Bill Hodges Trilogy that got rolling with Mr. Mercedes back in 2014.
The Twenty-Three by Linwood Barclay (Berkley, November 2016); 459 pp.