Book Review of the Week: Parting Shot by Linwood Barclay
Parting Shot is Linwood Barclay’s seventeenth novel. Among them is the chilling Promise Falls trilogy—Broken Promise (2015), Far From True (2016), and The Twenty–three (2016). Though technically not a sequel to that trilogy, this is a worthy standalone follow-up novel. It brings back many of the residents of all three novels.
It also brings back devastating memories of the catastrophe that befell the Promise Falls over that sequence of stories. Though it is not necessary to have read the trilogy, there will be no reason not to after having read Parting Shot.
This time around, Private Investigator Cal Weaver and Detective Barry Duckworth each pursue what appear to be separate, unrelated cases. One year after the series of mass killings in The Twenty-three, Brian Gaffney, in his early twenties, staggers into the Promise Falls police station claiming to Detective Duckworth that he may have been abducted by aliens. He cannot explain having lost two days of his life nor the crude tattoo etched onto his back that refers to a heinous crime he supposedly committed.
At the same time, Cal is called in by Madeline Plimpton, the former publisher of the Promise Falls Standard, to protect her eighteen-year-old grand-nephew, Jeremy Pilford, accused, acquitted, and now harassed for a murder he allegedly committed in a drunken stupor. His lawyer created “The Big Baby” defense, which swayed the jurors.
Barclay deftly alternates Cal’s and Barry’s challenging assignments over the course of the lengthy but fast-paced 447 pages. In the process, he drops significant clues (rarely red herrings) and introduces a community of engaging suspects before the two stories converge in a nail-biting, somewhat ambiguous conclusion that promises another thrilling addition to the Falls narratives.
In Cal’s part of the novel, he encounters Jeremy’s seriously dysfunctional family—Gloria, a mother who can’t hold her liquor and drinks heavily before noon; Bob Butler, her mysterious fiancé; and Grant Finch, the publicity-seeking lawyer who defended Jeremy. There is also Jeremy’s new girlfriend, Charlene Wilson, and a nefarious business partner, Galen Broadhurst, who is planning a questionable real estate venture with Bob. Altogether they are a barrel of crazies.
Meanwhile, Barry is trying to sort through Brian’s issues with his emotionally distant father, Albert, his mother, Constance, who dotes on Brian, and his sister, Monica, who is revolving in her own world. Barry is dealing with his usual weight issues and his twenty-five-year-old “withdrawn” son, Trevor.
When both stories converge, Parting Shot ends with a cleverly conceived final scene that is a head-spinning conclusion to this rattling good spinoff.
—Robert Allen Papinchak