Broken Promise by Linwood Barclay

broken promiseEnd of Part One…

😐 😐

When David Harwood visits his cousin Marla, he’s astonished to discover her nursing a baby that she claims is her own, because Marla’s baby died at birth, ten months ago, leaving her emotionally fragile and mentally unstable. She tells him a wild tale of how an angel brought the baby and asked her to take care of it. David’s worried enough by this story, but when he spots blood on the doorframe, he’s even more concerned. And when the mother of the baby is found, knifed to death, things look bleak indeed for Marla. So David, an unemployed journalist, agrees to see if he can find out the truth…

The book reminded me of losing at a game of snakes and ladders. It starts off very well – both writing and story flow along easily, David is a likeable character and at this early stage the plot seems intriguing. But then another plot is introduced, and another, and another… and suddenly I felt as if I was sliding down that pesky snake hoping for someone to throw the dice and get me back on the ladder. Sadly that didn’t happen. By a quarter of the way in at the most, the solution to the main plot is blindingly obvious – not just the who, but also the why and the how. So obvious I felt it must be a clever double-bluff, but it isn’t.

In the meantime, sub-plots keep developing exponentially. Barclay sets them up, always very interestingly – I have no quarrel at all with the quality of either his writing or characterisation, both of which are excellent throughout (though I could have lived without the tediously unimaginative and constant swearing). But then he forgets about them for ages, before suddenly bringing them back into the narrative, long after I’d either forgotten or lost interest in them, merely serving to slow down and break the flow of the main plot. At first, I thought they might all come together in some incredibly complex solution and looked forward to seeing how he’d achieve that. But it gradually becomes clear that, while there are some tenuous links between them, mostly they are completely separate strands. I still hoped they would be resolved or at least explained though – I don’t feel that’s too much to ask. It’s not as if the cover says “Part 1”…

Linwood Barclay
Linwood Barclay

…and yet, that’s precisely what this is. While the main plot is resolved (exactly as had been obvious for almost the entirety of the book), the other ones are left hanging, like the old Saturday Matinee cliffhangers… To Be Continued! But unlike them, we’d have to wait considerably longer than a week to find out what happened. If we care, that is. Personally I don’t. I don’t mind reading a trilogy, or even a Harry Potter-esque 7 book series, if someone tells me in advance that that’s what I’m about to read. But if they sell a book as a complete novel, then that’s what it should be. I don’t want to get into spoiler territory here, but I’m not talking about the kind of continuing background story arc that happens in many series – these are actual unresolved plots, murders left unexplained, investigations left halfway through, etc.

I’m sorely tempted to give this 1 star but, despite my real annoyance at being left hanging, I enjoyed the writing style enough to consider reading one of his other novels some time. But I’ll check the reviews first to see if it has an ending. And less swearing.

And, in the meantime, I’ll only recommend this if you don’t mind knowing early on how the main plot will work out, and never finding out how the sub plots do.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Orion.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link


41 thoughts on “Broken Promise by Linwood Barclay

  1. Ah, sorry to hear this was a disappointment! I have read some other Linwood Barclay (Trust Your Eyes, for instance) and that worked well for me, but they were standalone novels.

    • I could see that his style might work for me too, but I really hate when a book isn’t complete in itself and this was one of the worst examples I’ve come across. Once I’ve stopped being angry at him, I might try one of his earlier standalones…

  2. Sorry to hear this one disappointed you, FictionFan. I like Barclay’s writing very much, and one thing I’ve always liked about it is his characters. Shame they didn’t save the day for you here. Well, I shall probably continue reading his work..but perhaps not this one.

    • Yes, I liked his writing and characterisation too, but I was so annoyed at the book being unfinished. If an author is writing a serial rather than a series, I’d expect it to say so on the cover and in the blurb. But when I get over being angry at him, I might try one of his earlier books…

  3. This is exactly the kind of thing that really annoys me. For some reason everyone in the publishing business thinks that SERIAL novels are the way to go. Not me. If an author has presented an interesting group of characters and put them in an intriguing location, I will want to read the next book in the series. I don’t need cliffhangers to keep me coming back.
    Thanks for the heads up. I on’t be reading this book!

    • Me too! Exactly – I’d have been more likely to read the next one if this had been complete and satisfying. Now instead I’m so annoyed at feeling conned that nothing would persuade me to read it. Apart from anything else, my memory isn’t good enough to remember details from one book to another, so I’d probably end up having to re-read the first one before starting the second, and it wasn’t good enough for me to want to do that…

  4. What an excellent review, FF! I thought you were very fair despite being obviously disappointed. I am personally delighted because this certainly won’t be going on my list and I do love your less favourable reviews!

    • Thank you! 😀 It’s a pity because his writing style and characterisation are both good, but call me old-fashioned – I like my books to have endings. Haha! I thought you’d be pleased about this one, but I’ll try to get you with my next one…

      • I agree with you but I suppose this particular style of storytelling must be appreciated by someone or other. Someone quite bizarre, probably. Oooh now I can’t wait to see what the next one is…

        • I guess so many people are used to the ubiquitous trilogies these days they’re maybe more open to serial type books. But I’m a traditionalist – serials work fine on TV, magazines or blogs because you don’t have to wait long for the next episode, but not with books…

  5. Thanks for the heads-up, FF. I hadn’t heard of this one, but you’ve saved me a lot of time and energy by letting me know it doesn’t end. Well…not really. And I hate the thought of those sub-plots meandering along for eternity!

    • Yep, I wish I’d known in advance that it was ‘part 1’ and I’d never have touched it. And some of the unresolved sub-plots were actually a good deal more interesting than the main plot – but not interesting enough to make me want to read the next book…

    • Yes, it was a nice little run, but it couldn’t last forever! I don’t mind series with a running arc in the background, but serials are for TV or magazines – or blogs. Given it’s usually about a year between books I’d have forgotten everything by the time the follow-up came out…

    • He did! Haha – yes! He’s probably desperately trying to work out the rest of those plots now – serves him right! He looks as if he’s laughing at me… *growls*

      Unless it’s your own…

      • Shoot your peas at him! Imagine. That’d be the most vexing thing ever, really. So, I just watched John Carter again (’cause it’s my fav movie) and it sorta leaves off in a bad place, too. I’m might rampage about it, if I think on it too long.

        Well….that’d be kinda cool!

        • I will! But he’s in America so I’ll need to take a really deep breath…

          Yeah, didn’t you tell me – or maybe I read it somewhere – that they were going to make a follow-up but the first one wasn’t successful enough? You should rampage! And riot! Isn’t Dejah lovely? *daydreams about John but doesn’t mention it*

          Or warm… yucketh!

          • Practice first. Like Kenny does, haha.

            Yes, there were to sequels planned! *heart breaks* But something happened on set, so the budget shot up to over 200 mil. That’s basically what they made, too. Rats. I do like Dejah lots, but John more!!

            Warm blood means the murder is still about!

            • *snorts a few times* OK! Ready!

              You should make the sequel! I’ll be Dejah and Tuppence can be Woola! You can either be John or a Thark depending on how green you’re looking…

              Or that a vampire has put some in a vacuum flask for later…

            • *rampages and rips Rafa in half* Nice.

              *laughs* Now, why on earth would I be green, do you suppose? I”m not green!

              What an interest. I never supposed a vampire kept one of those.

            • *gasps* You put him back together again straight away, do you hear?! *holds Tom Sawyer over the fire*

              You would be if you’d just eaten one of Ruber’s meals! But really I was thinking your aversion to wearing skirts would prevent you from being John…

              Must do, don’t you think? Imagine how annoying if you had to catch a new victim every time you got peckish…

            • I can’t do it. He’s been disintegrated. It’s over for him. *smiles sadly* You know, I think Tom will enjoy his burning. Do it! Let the hate flow within you!! *Palpatine voice*

              If I was John I’d put on a hoody and athletic things, I”m thinking. Now that’d be cool. No greenness here, madam!

              That’d be hard. Especially if the victim wanted to fight back. I bet you’re right.

            • Ha! I glued him and he’s as good as new! But he was looking kind of annoyed, muttering “Wait till I get him…” and flexing his superhuman biceps. I wonder who he’s after…? *tosses the complete works of Twain merrily in the fire* Who’s Palpatine?

              See, that just wouldn’t have the same effect, I fear. No, either you must go with the skirt look or I’m afraid you can’t be John. You’ll have to be a white ape – they have good costumes…

              *nods* Always…

            • Glued! *laughing* Hope it doesn’t rain on the chap. Ooo, bring it! I’ll take him. He might know Tennis…but I know ju jitsu!! Well, you might burn your Twain… *looks at bookshelf* But mine are safe. I win again, see. You don’t know who Palpatine is?!

              White apes are sorta not wearing anything, tho, the beasts. One can’t fight in a skirt. They’re too billowy, see.

            • I shall book myself a ringside seat! No, can’t say I do – probably some cartoon hero?

              Yeah, but their fur coats are better than clothes. Well, that didn’t seem to be a problem for John Carter! Perhaps Barsoom isn’t windy…

  6. Hmmm…I haven’t read this one yet, but I think I might have known somehow that this story continued on to another book. I’ve read several of his earlier books and liked them a lot. He has an ‘everyman’ type story. Regular people with extraordinary things happening to them. Trust Your Eyes is interesting. You might try that one sometime. And it does finish. LOL

    • I wish this hadn’t been the first of his I’d read because I do think I’d like his style in general. But I’m so annoyed at him now, it’ll take me a while before I try another. However based on your and MarinaSofia’s recommendation, I’ll add Trust Your Eyes to the wishlist and by the time it comes up maybe I’ll have forgiven him… 😉

  7. Oh dear, oh dear! I completely understand your frustration- I don’t like the newly redirected fashion for serial novels, I’m not a fan, but not even to make it clear that this is the case is unforgivable!

    • Yes, it’s becoming another trend, isn’t it? It doesn’t work for me at all – I don’t remember enough from one book to another. Serials should be kept for TV! And I do think not to mention it on the cover or in the blurb is a pure con…

  8. I know just how you feel because I read a book (not Broken Promise) last year that I was so eager to find out how it ended only to be faced with the words to be continued in Part 2! I was so frustrated, as it just came to a full stop after a catastrophic event, that I couldn’t really believe had happened – a real cliff-hanger! I wish I’d realised before so that I’d been prepared – it was a complete let-down. It certainly didn’t make me want to read anything else by that author, never mind Part 2.

    I think the predictability of Broken Promise and the tedious swearing would have put me off without the ending leaving me high and dry!

    • Yes, part of the reason I was so annoyed is that one of the sub-plots was considerably more interesting than the main plot, and it was just left totally unexplained! If it had said it was part 1 of a story, I probably wouldn’t have read it, but if I had at least it would have been an informed choice. This just felt like a con to force people to buy the next one – but it had completely the opposite effect on me…

      I’m so tired of the amount of swearing in crime fiction these days. It’s really not that I’m prudish about it, but I just find it lazy writing which adds nothing to the story. Though if the book really grabs me, I don’t notice it so much…

  9. I think the cousin’s name is Marla, not Magda. Unless the author changed it after the advance reading copy you received.

  10. Oh, my goodness! I’m laughing over here because the end of your review reminded me of the time we rented a DVD–the first Lord of the Rings movie–and watched it with my dad. I guess he was the only person on the planet who didn’t know that there were two movies (which, at the time, weren’t even released yet) and he was sooo, soooooo angry at the end. I totally understand, though: you invest 3+ hours in a film, you want some resolution. You must have felt the same way about the book (though I’m sure Broken Promise doesn’t have the fame preceding it like LOTR does).

    • Haha! I was actually thinking about LOTR when I was writing the review and thanking my stars that all three volumes were available by the time I read it, otherwise I’d probably have been frothing at the mouth over that too! And I have to admit I didn’t see the first Hobbit film ‘cos I knew I’d be irritated intensely by having to wait for the second. I decided I’d wait till they all came out on blu-ray. Which reminds me… 😉

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