Can some authors be ‘too big to fail?’ Is John Connolly one of them? I’ve had my ups and down with the series to be sure, but I found that this book felt particularly disconnected, like Connolly was allowed to take everything he had written in his word processing application and turn it in, without thought to transitions, flow, plotting or narrative voice. Am I being harsh? Perhaps. But that’s the trouble with reading some really great books–of which his prior book, The Lovers, was one–and avoiding chaff. Standards get raised. My rating, therefore, reflects the book in context of both Connolly’s writing and the series; like the English teacher with almost impossible standards, I know he is capable of better. Much better.
A pity, really, because the characters in the book are primarily veterans, and it gives the reader a chance to peek at some of the issues that surround those that sign up to fight in the nation’s ongoing wars. Connolly clearly believes the issues are complicated, and I admire him for it. If only he hadn’t felt the need to info-dump the obvious in the middle of the book, losing both plot flow and narrative sense. Again, capable of much better. There’s some character viewpoint switching that almost facilitates the understanding of the issue, except it is too little, too late (mild spoiler), usually switching as part of building some sort of tension or sympathy right before the person begins to descend into a terrible situation.
So what happens here? It opens with a scene in the Iraqi Museum, where an employee is discovered by an American who helps him look for a particularly troublesome object, normally buried in the unlabeled archives. We jump to the soldier walking his dog. We jump again to Parker meeting an older man in a diner, the father of the soldier. It’s the father of the soldier. Parker then investigates an ex-soldier boyfriend of a woman who works for that older man and who seems to be able to make payments on a very expensive semi without doing much work.
There’s a few scenes that are extremely evocative. When Connolly gets it right, it’s beautiful and eerie and scary. Scenes where Parker is threatened, on the truck route and in his meeting with the drug kingpin at the ruined waterfront dive were particularly rich in imagery. The end scenes with the Collector were perhaps horrific beauty, and I had to read it twice.
Do I recommend it? If you are a serious fan of the series, sure. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. I enjoyed parts a lot, but out of most of his books so far, I felt like I was reading an inferior product. It is probably worth it for the last 25%, which contains a (spoiler of a minor character appearance) a development with The Collector, the mysterious, perhaps supernatural, killer who has been dogging Parker’s footsteps. But temper expectations.