Review: Broken Promise (Promise Falls #1) by Linwood Barclay

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

From New York Times bestselling author Linwood Barclay comes an explosive novel set in the peaceful small town of Promise Falls, where secrets can always be buried—but never forgotten…

After his wife’s death and the collapse of his newspaper, David Harwood has no choice but to uproot his nine-year-old son and move back into his childhood home in Promise Falls, New York. David believes his life is in free fall, and he can’t find a way to stop his descent.

Then he comes across a family secret of epic proportions. A year after a devastating miscarriage, David’s cousin Marla has continued to struggle. But when David’s mother asks him to check on her, he’s horrified to discover that she’s been secretly raising a child who is not her own—a baby she claims was a gift from an “angel” left on her porch.

When the baby’s real mother is found murdered, David can’t help wanting to piece together what happened—even if it means proving his own cousin’s guilt. But as he uncovers each piece of evidence, David realizes that Marla’s mysterious child is just the tip of the iceberg.

Other strange things are happening. Animals are found ritually slaughtered. An ominous abandoned Ferris wheel seems to stand as a warning that something dark has infected Promise Falls. And someone has decided that the entire town must pay for the sins of its past…in blood.

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Broken Promise is the first book in a new series, but it’s also a continuation of the characters from Never Look Away, which is actually one of the first reviews I ever wrote for this blog (the book was great, the review was not). While events from Never Look Away are referenced, they’re mostly pretty vague and you don’t have read it before reading Broken Promise. It doesn’t even really give away what happens, so if you want to go back and read it, you’re still in for some surprises.

It’s been a couple years since the events of Never Look Away has occurred and David finds himself an unemployed single father, living with his parents. His mother sends him to check on his cousin who is grieving over the loss of her baby – and seemed to have gone a little crazy. When David shows up at her house, he finds her with a baby she claims was dropped off by an angel. David finds an address he believes to be the real home of the baby and when he shows up there he finds a murder scene. David being David, he can’t help but to do a little investigating of his own when his cousin appears to be the prime suspect.

As the story went on, I started to suspect a lot of things. Even though I was usually right, it was written in such a way that I still felt surprised at every reveal. Barclay is really a master of this genre and I love his writing. All of the characters are very well developed and there is really rich imagery. I usually don’t care for too much description, but I really appreciated it here. While the romance (if you can even call it that) was a very small portion of the book, I was 100% against it. Poor David has just awful taste in women. I think it has the potential to add a lot of unnecessary drama in future installments of the series and I’m really hoping that a new love interest is introduced instead.

There an abundance of side plots in this story. Some of them are connected to the central mystery, but there are a couple that aren’t resolved by the end of the book and appear to set things up nicely for the next book in the series. While it slightly annoyed me to not have answers, I know Barclay will eventually take care of it and I’m really looking forward to the next book.

Overall, I really enjoyed Broken Promise. I love that we get to see more of David Harwood and Detective Duckworth. There was also a quick cameo from Cal from A Tap on the Window. Barclay is one of my favorite mystery/suspense writers and this book definitely did not disappointment. I recommend it to all fans of the genre.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

4 stars

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Underrated Authors or Books

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This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish is: Top Ten Underrated Authors or Books in X genre. I’ve decided not to limit myself to a certain genre and will include authors and books.

Dangerous Girls   Dangerous Boys

1. Abigail Haas – Dangerous Girls, Dangerous Boys
I’ve just read these books and became obsessed with them. I hadn’t even heard of them until I won Dangerous Girls in a giveaway. More people need to read these.

The Dead Will Tell (Kate Burkholder, #6)

2. Linda Castillo – The Kate Burkholder series
While I originally read this series because it’s set in Holmes County, it really is a great mystery series, with an interested setting of Amish country. Plus, I’ve met Linda Castillo and she’s awesome.

Triptych (Will Trent, #1)

3. Karin Slaughter – The Will Trent series
I love this series, but I haven’t really seen anyone else I follow in the blogosphere read her.

Never Look Away

4. Linwood Barclay
Barclay is a master storyteller who writes great mysteries with amazing character development.

Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy, #1)

5. Sarah Rees Brennan – The Lynburn Legacy
This is my favorite new series I’ve read this year so far. More people need to get on it!

All the Truth That's in Me

6. Julie Berry – All the Truth that’s in Me
This was such a unique book and another one I haven’t really seen around the blogosphere.

The Best Man (Blue Heron #1)

7. Kristan Higgins
She is by far my favorite romance author. I love her writing style and her quirky characters. More people need to read her.

Mind Games (Mind Games, #1)

8. Kiersten White – Mind Games duology
I love her style and the characters in this series. More people need to give this a try!

Attachments

9. Rainbow Rowell – Attachments
Rainbow Rowell is definitely not underrated, but her first book, Attachments, is by far my favorite of all her books but is the least recognized.

Northanger Abbey

10. Jane Austen – Northanger Abbey
Northanger Abbey is one of Austen’s lesser known books, but it’s definitely one of my favorites.

Have you read any of the above books? What books/authors do you think are underrated?

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Covers I’d Frame As Pieces of Art

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This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is: Top Ten Book Covers I’d Frame As Pieces of Art.

Ignite Me (Shatter Me, #3)

1. Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi.

Cress (The Lunar Chronicles, #3)

2. Cress by Marissa Meyer.

Alienated (Alienated, #1)

3. Alienated by Melissa Landers.

These Broken Stars (Starbound, #1)

4. These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner.

Never Look Away

5. Never Look Away by Linwood Barclay.

Illusions (Wings, #3)

6. Illusions by Aprilynn Pike.

Life After Life

7. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.

Unmade (The Lynburn Legacy, #3)

8. Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan

The Night Circus

9. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss, #3)

10. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins.

2013 Year in Review


So I started out 2013 with a goal to read 25 books. I kept adding 10 to my goal and finally stopped extending it when I got to 85. I ended up reading 169 books (though there’s still a few days left so this number could go up by one or two). I thought I’d call attention to some of my favorites – and my not so favorites.

FAVORITE NEW AUTHOR – MYSTERY/SUSPENSE: LINWOOD BARCLAY

Never Look Away  No Time for Goodbye  The Accident

Linwood Barclay is not a new author, but I just discovered him this year. So far I’ve only read the above 3 books, but they were all consistently good. It’s not just great mystery. He writes really great, relatable characters, too.

FAVORITE NEW AUTHOR – ROMANCE: KRISTAN HIGGINS

The Next Best Thing   The Best Man (Blue Heron #1)   All I Ever Wanted   Just One of the Guys

I read Just One of the Guys early in the year because it was a free nook book and I enjoyed it. I recently just went on a Kristan Higgins splurge and read every book that she has published. They all pretty closely follow the same outline, but I love them all. I love her character development – particularly her “flashback” style of writing -, her quirky secondary characters, and that it’s romance without being erotic.

FAVORITE RETURNING AUTHOR: RAINBOW ROWELL

Fangirl

Ok, I’m going to share a very unpopular opinion. I did not love Eleanor and Park. It was only just ok for me. But I still love you Rainbow Rowell! And she gave me another excellent book to read this year in Fangirl. Cath and Levi. Sigh.

FAVORITE COUPLE (ADULT): MARTIN RILKE & IVY THAXTON RILKE

The Passing Bells (Passing Bells, #1)

I don’t think I can ever say enough how much I love Martin Rilke.  He and Ivy were my favorite characters in The Passing Bells and I absolutely loved them together.

FAVORITE COUPLE (YA): DAEMON & KATY

Onyx (Lux, #2)

Of course this has to be Daemon and Katy from Lux. They’re sarcastic and adorable.

BEST CHARACTER GROWTH: JOHN TOMASETTI

Sworn to Silence (Kate Burkholder, #1)

Tomasetti of the Kate Burkholder series starts off as a barely functioning alcoholic and prescription drug addict that’s just hanging on to his job and recovering from the murder of his wife and daughters. Throughout the series he sobers up (more or less), returns to being the agent he once was, and becomes the stable one in his relationship with Kate.

FAVORITE CAST OF CHARACTERS: THE RAVEN BOYS

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1)

Gansey, Adam, Ronan, Noah, and Blue. I love the interactions between this group. What really draws me into this series is the characters. I wish I would’ve come up with them.

BEST FREE BOOK: BACK ON MURDER

Back on Murder (A Roland March Mystery, #1)

I discovered The Roland March series by J. Mark Bertrand because the first in the series was a free nook book at Barnes and Noble (you can get it for FREE here). Bertrand is a solid writer and I gave all three books in this series 4 stars.

FAVORITE NEW SERIES (YA): LUX

Obsidian (Lux, #1)  Onyx (Lux, #2) Opal (Lux, #3)  Origin (Lux, #4)

I’ve probably mentioned Jennifer Armentrout and her Lux series in this blog more than any other author or series. I love the writing, the characters, the banter, the mysteries, and the action.

FAVORITE NEW SERIES (ADULT): THE KATE BURKHOLDER SERIES

Sworn to Silence (Kate Burkholder, #1)  Pray for Silence (Kate Burkholder, #2)  Breaking Silence (Kate Burkholder, #3)  Gone Missing (Kate Burkholder, #4)  Long Lost (Kate Burkholder #4.5)Her Last Breath (Kate Burkholder, #5)

I have to say that part of me loves this series because it’s based in Holmes County, Ohio – not far from where I grew up. But I also love the characters and the mystery.

LIVED UP TO THE HYPE: THE FAULT IN OUR STARS

The Fault in Our Stars

I did not believe that The Fault in our Stars would make me cry. I was wrong. But it was also sarcastic and funny and wonderful.

DIDN’T LIVE UP TO THE HYPE: THE SILENT WIFE

The Silent Wife

I kept reading things about how this was this summer’s Gone Girl. It was not. It took me about a month to finally finish it.

MOST DISAPPOINTING SEQUEL: THE ELITE

The Elite (The Selection, #2)

This book actually made me angry. I really enjoyed the first book, but this one was just horrible. America becomes unbearably annoying. Aspen is a doormat. Maxon is a dick. And the rebel subplot… Here’s hoping the end of the series makes up for this book.

MOST DISAPPOINTING END OF A SERIES – RUNNER-UP: REQUIEM

Requiem (Delirium, #3)

Ugh. This story went so down hill for me in this book. The love triangle in Requiem‘s is the reason I hate them. And though Lena’s choice is obvious, she never actually “picks” him. And half the book was given to Hanna’s POV, who I could not care less about (seriously – I can’t even tell how much I DON’T care about Hanna). I felt like the end was left open for future books instead of concluding the story of Lena. It turned into an obvious and poorly done social commentary on how we need to love.

MOST DISAPPOINTING END OF A SERIES: ALLEGIANT

Allegiant (Divergent, #3)

I was soooo disappointed by this book. I didn’t think it was possible for an ending to disappoint me more than Requiem did, but this one really took the cake. While Allegiant wraps things up in a way Requiem does not, I was still more disappointed with it because I loved this series so much and was so, so expecting it to be amazing. It wasn’t just the fact that I didn’t agree with the ending. It was just poorly done.

FAVORITE BOOK OF THE YEAR – RUNNER UP: UNRAVEL ME

Unravel Me (Shatter Me, #2)

I loved the first book in this series and this one got even better. And even though I hate to admit it, the love triangle in this book actually works. I don’t feel like there’s a clear choice for Juliette and I get that she has feelings for both of them because I have feelings for both of them. Just when I’ve decided I’m Team Warner, she runs into Adam and I suddenly feel conflicted. Because of course I’m Team Adam. But then there’s Warner…

FAVORITE BOOK OF THE YEAR: THE NIGHT CIRCUS

The Night Circus

This wasn’t at all what I was expecting it to be. It’s super descriptive which I don’t usually like, but it was done so beautifully in this book that I loved it. The emotional connection I felt to these characters were greater than any others I’ve read this year.

Never Look Away by Linwood Barclay – 4 stars (out of 5)

Never Look Away: A Thriller

Never Look Away centers on David Harwood, reporter at small town newspaper, husband, and father. He’s working on a story of corruption about the town council members accepting bribes from Elmont Sebastian, the owner of Star Spangled Corrections, a private prison that’s looking to build in town.  David is also dealing with the sudden, inexplicable depression of his wife, Jan, who has been taking off from work and hinting at having suicidal thoughts.

Things seem to be getting better with Jan when she orders tickets for the family to go to the local amusement park. Things quickly take a turn for the worse when Ethan is abducted shortly after their arrival, causing David and Jan to separate to try and find him. David finds him after a quick, frantic search, but can’t reach Jan on her cell phone to tell her. He returns to their planned rendezvous point and she never shows up. Park security and the police are soon part of the search for Jan Harwood.

As the search goes on, the park finds no record of Jan Harwood having ever entered the park. And no one but David has noticed her depression. The search for Jan begins to turn into a suspected murder investigation, with David as the sole suspect. Knowing he’s innocent, David starts an investigation of his own, which leads him to question everything he’s ever known – or though he’s known – about his wife.

Thoughts: (Beware of possible spoilers)

-This book reminded me a lot of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Read it. Love it. You’re Welcome.), but less psychotic.  So I wasn’t entirely surprised when Jan went missing and David was taking the fall for it. What made it so interesting was seeing how it all played out, all the work that Jan put into it to make sure all roads led to David.

-David Harwood is a smart, likable character. He loves his parents, who live nearby and often help out with Ethan, he loves his wife and is genuinely concerned about her depression, urging her to seek professional help, and he loves his son. He’s a good reporter and doesn’t sell out when he’s given the opportunity. But, he did drive me crazy at times. For a smart guy, he seemed to keep shooting himself in the foot when it came to the investigation. Everything he did made him look more guilty and even though he recognized he shouldn’t say or do certain things, he did them anyways.

-Though it kept the story moving, there were almost too many side plots. The private prison and Elmont Sebastian’s desire to intimidate David into revealing his source for the corruption story, *SPOILER ALERT* the parents of the real Jan Richler, who David’s Jan pushed in front of a moving car as a child, Jan’s trip with her old partner Dwayne to cash in on their diamonds they stole from a man several years earlier, and that man’s plan of revenge to get back at them for cutting off his hand. *END OF SPOILER* Barclay did a good job of connecting all of these sub plots to the main story, but I would’ve liked more time spent with David and less time with everybody else.

Never Look Away is the first book of Linwood Barclay that I’ve read, but his other books are definitely going on my To Read list. He writes smart, empathetic characters and the story was well paced and contained enough twists to keep me guessing, without ever going overboard or into the completely unbelievable. I give this book 4 stars and would suggest it to lovers of crime/mystery/suspense/thrillers.