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by John Connolly
Hodder and Stoughton, June 2012
432 pages
7.99 GBP
ISBN: 0340993553

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

One afternoon, a little girl goes missing from a mall parking lot. She lives on the Maine peninsula of Pastor's Bay, a reclusive community where everyone knows everyone else and strangers are seldom welcomed with open arms, particularly not Charlie Parker. He's in town on behalf of a client, a man with a secret that no one's supposed to know, a secret someone has found out.

He's been employed by a lawyer on behalf of Randall Haight because when Randall was a teenager, he and his friend killed a 14-year-old girl. The two boys were prosecuted as adults and sentenced to jail. But a sympathetic judge arranged for them to get new identities, new names and new pasts when they got out. Few people knew about the deal, but someone has found out. Someone is sending Randall disturbing letters and illegal images, preludes to blackmail perhaps, or as a run-up to implicating him in the abduction of the little girl.

Meanwhile, the girl's uncle, Tommy Morris, a stalwart of the Boston criminal fraternity, is declaring war on his enemies, believing one of them has snatched her. He's convinced it's a move against him, and the only two people he can trust are the goons he hired years ago to do his dirty work. As Parker investigates and Morris hunts, they're on a collision course with the hidden truths of Pastor's Bay, and the buried secrets of the past.

This is a strange novel. Two seemingly distinct stories are being told and there's such a huge difference between them in terms of theme and genre that it's difficult to like the book while disliking one of the stories. Charlie Parker's investigation into Randall Haight, with its tantalising hint of the supernatural and insight into the dangerously insular town of Pastor's Bay, is a fascinating mystery. Whereas Tommy Morris tearing into the Boston underworld is a violent, nasty and ultimately pointless side story that's uncomfortable in places and interrupts the flow of the main narrative.

This is the tenth Charlie Parker thriller, this first I've read, and it's the story of Parker's tragic past and the hints to the true natures of his friends and associates that are the real draw of this book. Perhaps fans of the series will accept the detour into the Boston underworld, but it's an unwelcome distraction from what's otherwise an absorbing read.

Madeleine Marsh is an aspiring author who lives in the South West. She helps run sci-fi conventions and loves modern cinema.

Reviewed by Madeleine Marsh, September 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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