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by John Connolly
Hodder & Stoughton, May 2008
400 pages
14.99 GBP
ISBN: 0340936657

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

John Connolly is like a fine wine, maturing most impressively with age. That's not to say his early books are poor, because they're not. But he's refined his art to such an extent that each new outing pushes even further at the boundaries of genre writing.

THE REAPERS is ostensibly part of the series featuring troubled PI Charlie Parker and his enigmatic sidekicks Angel and Louis. But it's the latter pair who take centre stage here, and the now ex-PI is relegated to a minor, albeit vital, role.

The central plot isn't particularly complex Louis, a member of that elite assassin group The Reapers, is now hunted himself. And when he and his lover are lured north to a town that doesn't exist on any map, there's bound to be copious amounts of blood.

The 'tell, not show' that occasionally marred Connolly's earlier books has been ruthlessly excised and been replaced by a rich, dark Gothic writing style that exudes menace on almost every page. In the end the plot, although it's inch-perfect, is perhaps the least interesting part of THE REAPERS. This is a book to immerse yourself in for the pure enjoyment of appreciating a writer as artist.

Few writers, in fact, have the skill and nerve to take you halfway into a book without very much happening. There are tiny, explosive scenes that remain etched on the reader's brain, arrayed alongside dark and intense flashbacks, but Connolly concentrates on building and fleshing out the varied cast.

Connolly gives those characters space to breathe and expand. As well as those flashbacks to Louis's childhood in the racist deep South, there are further glimpses of what makes his and Angel's partnership tick, both personally and professionally. And I'm now hoping that we get to see some of Angel's past in future books.

The cast is sprawling but marvellously delineated. Perhaps my favourite was dogged car repairman Willie Brew and his sidekick Arno, an equally unlikely work partnership who find themselves deep in a dark world they don't understand. And there's also the no-nonsense Mrs Bondarchuk and her Pomeranians, tenants of that nice Mr Angel and Mr Louis.

THE REAPERS is a rich, complex and demanding read, interspersed with unexpected moments of bone-dry humour. It is easily Connolly's best yet and the moment I'd finished it, I wanted to go back and start it all over again.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, June 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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