As I was doing the unthinkable–physically browsing library shelves instead of ordering on-line–I saw a number of Connolly’s Charlie Parker books. Despite friends’ enthusiastic reviews, I’ve been unsure about trying the series, as I’m generally sensitive to horror. However, I really enjoyed his young adult series, so thought it was worth testing my squimishness and selected one of the books that didn’t seem quite so focused on mass killings. I confess: I was riveted. How good? I drove back to work after I accidentally left the book there, because it would have been three days before I could finish it.
Charlie Parker has a deeply unfortunate past and is haunted–perhaps literally—by the murders of his wife and daughter. He had been working as a private investigator, but a recent suspension of his license leads him at loose ends, so he decides to investigate a very old case: his father murdering a young couple and subsequent suicide. Atmospheric, ranging in time and place, from the Parker’s home in the Irish town of Pearl River, to New York City, to the bar Parker’s working at in Maine.
Something about Connolly’s writing just works for me. I found myself trying to read faster so that I’d find out what was happening, and the reasons for the father’s crime. There’s a nice balance between description and action, and in general, I find his characters intriguing.
“Or perhaps that was just a game memory was playing on me as I churned up the mud in the reservoir of the past and, when the dirt had settled, picked my way across the bottom to see what had been exposed.”
Narrative did occasionally shift viewpoints, following Parker, a reporter, a young woman on the move, and a range of smaller players. Early in the book there is a section about a search for a missing boy. It’s engrossing, and in only three pages, two of the searchers realistically created. Unfortunately, they are only bit characters in a scene most likely meant to titillate the reader into realizing the killing are continuing. It’s too bad, as I thought the scene was exceptionally well done–yet as the dead character is a mere footnote to the larger story, it really had no plot significance. The most extensive non-Parker narrative was from someone recounting historical events, and it was one of the only times I found myself disengaging from the story. The text was entirely italicized, so it was also visually off-putting. It might have worked better for me had the viewpoint remained rooted in the present tense, with the narrator or Parker actively engaging. It just didn’t flow as well for me. Come to think of it, it might have even worked as a flashback. Nonetheless, it remained an interesting sub-story that ended up explaining much.
“He stayed on the step until I reached the sidewalk, then he waved once and closed the door. I looked up at the window with the broken pane, but there was nobody there. That room was empty. Whatever remained there had no form; the ghost of the boy was inside me, where he had always been.”
The horror-ish bits were bearable for me, and generally over quickly. There were some quiet, enjoyable, but under-developed paranormal elements. It reminded me quite a bit of the early and grim episodes of the tv series Supernatural, including the hints at a larger agency/conspiracy. The climax was small letdown, as I expected more agency from Parker. His plan for the confrontation is kept from the reader until Parker the scene, and I thought it just a bit of a stylistic disappointment, an unimpressive surprise. Yet despite all these quibbles, it was a book that was difficult to put down. For book eight in a series, it was extremely readable and I don’t think I lost much by my random pick-up point. I understand Parker has a bit of character growth through the series, so I think I’ll go back and start with book one. But I guarantee I won’t be reading before bedtime.