The Twenty-Three was the latest installment in Barclay’s Promise Falls series starring David Hardwood. Barclay’s other hero, Cal Weaver, also was present to unravel the mystery of why the townspeople of Promise Falls suddenly experienced a mass poisoning. Within minutes of waking up and consuming water from the town wells hundreds were admitted to the hospital with vomiting, high fever, and rashes. By midday, over a hundred people had succumbed to the symptoms and died.
In several respects, this read like Stephen King’s Under The Dome, another novel where an author tackled the daunting task of establishing an entire town full people and stories. There were many people filling the pages in The Twenty-Three, however my biggest issue with that decision was that Barclay didn’t give enough info about any one person to really have a protagonist I could root for, and you know how important that is for me. I suppose David was the main protagonist, but his plot line was thin because not enough attention was given to it.
Despite the amount of people and length of the novel, the story felt superficial. It took a hundred pages to get the townspeople into the hospital, and another chunk for anyone to figure out the source of the sickness. There were several subplots, but they just weren’t developed as much as some of Barclay’s other novels. That meant there was only a very specious reasoning for the epidemic, which came out of nowhere. Ultimately, the cause of the contamination didn’t have enough background for me to believe in it.
I loved the first Promise Falls novel, Never Look Away, but I think I’m done with the Promise Falls series.