Far From True: Linwood Barclay’s Modern Twist On The Classic Noir

It’s hard to judge the second book in a trilogy without having read the first one, but with Linwood Barclay’s Far From True, it has both a standalone story and one that links to the first and sets up the third. It is of the Promise Falls trilogy, the former Toronto Star’s humour writer’s serious of thrillers set in the fictional small town of Promise Falls, New York.

Although the American-born Canuck has become known for his taut tales, Far From True seems even darker than previous efforts, dealing with such topics as rape (including of the gang variety), group sex, kink, ritualistic animal slaughter, and a college campus shooting. All of this is tightly packed into a quick-moving, page-turning 440 odd pages, containing so many characters and events taking place simultaneously that you’re not even sure you remember the events from the last chapter.

Although having so many characters can muddy the waters, in Barclay’s case, it works in his favour, given the murkiness of the murder mystery – or rather mysteries. Cops, robbers, private eyes, secret rooms, stolen home movies, the whole sordid affair reads a little bit like a 1950s film noir.

Speaking of reading, Barclay is a writer’s writer, throwing in references to other writers; whether it’s through a used book store, having the character’s read Ken Follett, or, as is my favourite example, through a graphic novel as written by an eleven year old girl. A graphic novel, which if the ending is any indicating, will play an even more important role in book three.

I wouldn’t describe the book as “a complex read”, nevertheless Barclay is able to infuse some character backstory to go along with his pulse-heightening Law & Order/Criminal Minds fare.  While a few character’s storylines have been wrapped up, far more were burst open at the seams, leading to a even more tightly packed third story (titled The Twenty Three and due out in November).

Well done Mr. Barclay. Dashiell Hammett would be proud!


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