Book Review: Broken Promise by Linwood Barclay

Sometimes you get a bit stuck in your ways when it comes to books – you find an author you like and away you go reading everything that has their name on – so it’s good when you pick up a book by someone you’ve never heard of.

Wanting to spend more time with his son Ethan and with his own father having recently suffered a minor heart attack, David Harwood returns to his childhood home, Promise Falls, only to be made redundant from his role as a journalist at the local paper days after moving because it’s shutting down. As if things couldn’t get any worse, his cousin Marla hasn’t been quite right after giving birth to a still-born daughter, and when he goes to check on her he finds her holding a baby boy she says was given to her by an angel. When David tries to return the baby home, he finds a bloody murder scene and the baby’s mother is dead… As a journalist, his Aunt and Marla’s mother Agnes implores him to try and find out the truth. Soon he’s discovering that many secrets are lurking around Promise Falls.

I feel Barclay is really clever with his writing – he weaves the tale brilliantly, and while I did manage to deduce some things, several times I literally sat there open mouthed (this occurred on the bus on my way home from work a couple of times, so heaven knows what my fellow commuters thought). His characters feel completely real – I particularly loved the scenes between David’s parents Don and Arlene. Although they’re nothing remarkable, the simplicity of them and the ordinary situations you see them in while they’re dealing with what is essentially a family disaster, in my opinion, only adds to the story rather than distracting from it.

Another aspect of his writing that I feel makes the book so successful is the balance Barclay creates between mystery, intrigue, normality and humour – one particular scene I really liked was when David goes to question the dead woman’s neighbour. The neighbour in question asks if he did it – when David says no the man seems to accept that. However, he then takes a photo of David which he emails to his daughter just in case he turns up dead as well so the police know who to look for. These little moments really make the story for me.

We all like to stick to what we know, but if you are looking for a new author to get your teeth into I would thoroughly recommend finding a copy of Broken Promise. This one will almost certainly keep you guessing throughout and will definitely keep you entertained, and I will most definitely be on the lookout for more books by Linwood Barclay.


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