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by John Connolly
Atria, January 2013
480 pages
ISBN: 1476703027

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

There is no genre that quite encompasses this 11th installment in John Connolly's Charlie Parker series of thrillers. We learn that Parker's wife and child were murdered and that he himself has done some killing. This information does not make him particularly sympathetic or particularly frightening. He is a noir detective in the Maine woods, and the bad guys are evil creatures who cannot die. Is this a work of fiction or fantasy or horror, or some sort of amalgam of all three?

Perhaps outlining the plot might be helpful here. Two people, Marielle Vetters and Ernie Scollay, have a weird tale to tell PI Parker concerning their deceased relatives--Marielle's father, Harlan Vetters, and Ernie's brother, Paul Scollay. Over a decade ago, while out hunting in the Maine woods, the two men had stumbled upon the wreckage of an airplane and never told anyone. The plane was in an area that seemed filled with menace and the men wanted to forget about it. However, what they had found in the plane, as well as what they had left behind in the broken fuselage, haunted both of them. At the end of his life, Harlan revealed his secret to Marielle—and told her to get in touch with Charlie Parker.

Connolly is skillful at going back and forth between the present and the events of the past. We not only are told about Harlan and Paul's discovery, but we actually see what happens as they live through the events. In other parts of the book, a scene may be described from one angle, focusing on one character or group, and then shown again from the vantage point of other characters. This technique is engaging and very satisfying for the reader.

Parker's involvement in this mystery leads him to a number of odd, intriguing and dangerous people, including a strange human called the Collector who takes justice into his own hands. Parker has two loyal associates, Angel and Louis, who have a refreshingly joking and uncomplicated relationship with him and who act as bodyguards or henchman as the necessity arises. Connolly is a master at describing gruesome characters and uncanny attacks. He writes about evil doings and does not blink. A revolting creature with a purple goiter on his neck is dead and not dead, murdered but reborn.

For a reader such as I, new to this series, the ordinariness, the dailiness, of the characters' lives serves to lend credibility to the hideous beings perpetrating ghastly murder and mayhem. It all seems so plausible, so much like a "cozy" about small town America. And yet, as we read, it is not much like this at all.

Anne Corey is a writer, poet, teacher and botanical artist in New York's Hudson Valley.

Reviewed by Anne Corey, February 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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