Every Dead Thing by John Connolly could tone down the adrenaline

every-dead-thing

Read October 2016
Recommended for fans of horror/thriller
 ★     ★    

Read this if you need to stay awake all night.

I, for instance, read through the majority of this book during one of the most boring night shifts ever. I don’t know what the world is coming to when patients actually sleep through the night. It turned out to be an almost optimal way to read it for me–the occasional call light interrupting the build of tension, yet enough suspense and horror to drive any sleepies from my mind. Really. I should have lent a chapter or two to Ashley, who was working a double shift and had to resort to napping during her break. A chapter or two with Connolly would have taken care of that, fast.

Still, it really wasn’t my cuppa. I enjoy Connolly’s ability to create atmosphere, but as someone who has approached his writing through his later works, first book awkwardness shows here. Instead of merely evocative, some descriptions feel more like digressions and interruptions, particularly brief side lectures on bone china, particular types of construction, history of mayors of New Orleans, brief history of FBI wiretapping, etc. Then there are large chunks that feel like nods to the expected genre tropes rather than personal style: an explanation of the guns Parker owns, a description of his beat-up car, the strange way the police in whatever area he’s in include him in their cases. I felt like explanations for the latter were cumbersome distractions. And the biggest tropes of all–and honestly, my peeves with the horror/thriller genre in general–the insistence that both body count and gruesomeness make a story more suspenseful.

~Why, hello, Tana French, Christie, Conan Doyle and Poe.~

Add to it the feeling that this book is actually three books means it suffers even more from first books syndrome (all the ideas!): the story of Charlie Parker and his wife and daughter’s murder, the story of a serial killer who preys on children, and the story of a serial killer who flays their victims. Eventually, two of the stories fit together, with the remaining section feeling like a long detour into a different book Don’t get me wrong; certainly it entertained (did I mention needing to stay awake?) but in retrospect, I can’t think that it had anything to do with the final story.

Some mention Connolly’s characters as a strength, but I’m not convinced that’s in play here, except for the troubled lead, Charlie Parker. Then there’s the challenges presented by ‘friends,’ Angel and Louis. It always makes me a little uncomfortable to have characters who are largely referred to by their differentness, so that there’s some kind of psuedo-white liberal congratulations where we can reassure ourselves that we aren’t really scared of black men, or gay men, or interracial couples, except that every single time they are brought up in the story, their sexuality/color is a part of the story. It’s especially clear when the dialogue references the stereotypes of that group, providing the way we can all pat ourselves on the back. The characters of Angel and Louis are very awkwardly included here.

As inexperienced as I am in the genre, I still suspect this is above average in overall writing quality. Still, it lacks the focus that Connolly brings to his later works and instead focused on details that seem to be catering to an audience raised on thriller/horror and not to a tightly focused story. Well, as long as it worked, I suppose, so that he can keep improving and getting published. It was interesting reading this after book 8, The Lovers, seeing the beginning threads of Parker’s story. However, it also led me to wondering about a little bit of ret-conning that might be happening in book 8.

Another rare unrated for me, partly because it kept me awake–that’s some skill, there–and partly because I’m not a genre fan, so any ‘it was okay’ type rating would need to be qualified by the “it’s not you, it’s me” school of excuses. Read this if you need to stay awake all night.

I, for instance, read through the majority of this book during one of the most boring night shifts ever. I don’t know what the world is coming to when patients actually sleep through the night. It turned out to be an almost optimal way to read it for me–the occasional call light interrupting the build of tension, yet enough suspense and horror to drive any sleepies from my mind. Really. I should have lent a chapter or two to Ashley, who was working a double shift and had to resort to napping during her break. A chapter or two with Connolly would have taken care of that, fast.

Still, it really wasn’t my cuppa. I enjoy Connolly’s ability to create atmosphere, but as someone who has approached his writing through his later works, first book awkwardness shows here. Instead of merely evocative, some descriptions feel more like digressions and interruptions, particularly brief side lectures on bone china, particular types of construction, history of mayors of New Orleans, brief history of FBI wiretapping, etc. Then there are large chunks that feel like nods to the expected genre tropes rather than personal style: an explanation of the guns Parker owns, a description of his beat-up car, the strange way the police in whatever area he’s in include him in their cases. I felt like explanations for the latter were cumbersome distractions. And the biggest tropes of all–and honestly, my peeves with the horror/thriller genre in general–the insistence that both body count and gruesomeness make a story more suspenseful.

~Why, hello, Tana French, Christie, Conan Doyle and Poe.~

Add to it the feeling that this book is actually three books means it suffers even more from first books syndrome (all the ideas!): the story of Charlie Parker and his wife and daughter’s murder, the story of a serial killer who preys on children, and the story of a serial killer who flays their victims. Eventually, two of the stories fit together, with the remaining section feeling like a long detour into a different book Don’t get me wrong; certainly it entertained (did I mention needing to stay awake?) but in retrospect, I can’t think that it had anything to do with the final story.

Some mention Connolly’s characters as a strength, but I’m not convinced that’s in play here, except for the troubled lead, Charlie Parker. Then there’s the challenges presented by ‘friends,’ Angel and Louis. It always makes me a little uncomfortable to have characters who are largely referred to by their differentness, so that there’s some kind of psuedo-white liberal congratulations where we can reassure ourselves that we aren’t really scared of black men, or gay men, or interracial couples, except that every single time they are brought up in the story, their sexuality/color is a part of the story. It’s especially clear when the dialogue references the stereotypes of that group, providing the way we can all pat ourselves on the back. The characters of Angel and Louis are very awkwardly included here.

As inexperienced as I am in the genre, I still suspect this is above average in overall writing quality. Still, it lacks the focus that Connolly brings to his later works and instead focused on details that seem to be catering to an audience raised on thriller/horror and not to a tightly focused story. Well, as long as it worked, I suppose, so that he can keep improving and getting published. It was interesting reading this after book 8, The Lovers, seeing the beginning threads of Parker’s story. However, it also led me to wondering about a little bit of ret-conning that might be happening in book 8.

Another rare unrated for me, partly because it kept me awake–that’s some skill, there–and partly because I’m not a genre fan, so any ‘it was okay’ type rating would need to be qualified by the “it’s not you, it’s me” school of excuses.  

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About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
This entry was posted in Book reviews, Mystery, Thriller and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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