A Song of Shadows by John Connolly

Read June 2019
Recommended for fans of the series
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ 

Easily the best Charlie Parker book since The Lovers (#8). It was, for me, a perfectly balanced Parker book: mystery, the supernatural, vengeance, visceral horror, intellectual horror, and, surprisingly, a nice amount of dry humor. There’s a bit where the Falci Brothers pick Parker up that had me giggling. But most of it was witty asides (seriously; who makes jokes about the Reformation?):

“Pastor’s here,” she said. “And Father Knowles.” Bloom turned to see the two men waiting at a polite distance. She could see only one car, though. They must have decided to travel together. Martin Luther would have had an embolism.”

I can’t honestly say Connolly’s writing surpasses expectations, because by now, my expectations for what he is able to do are quite high. In this book, Parker is recooperating in a house by the seashore, and we get to experience the salty air and cold sand of a late spring beach. It’s a small town–not a village, mind you–so we experience the bookstore, the cafe, the police station (naturally), pieces of the public life.

The plot is one that could have been loaded with triggers, but is handled, in my estimation, with sophistication and nuance. The levitity I mentioned is needed, because the plot ends up involving issues surrounding Nazis. I was–appropriately–exposed to just some of the horrors of Nazism in school, and I find the way that it has been used as a construct of evil to be offensive in it’s simplification and omnipresence. Part of the discussion is the value of prosecuting war crimes, as well sharing one of the lesser-known war-time Nazi crimes.

“Baulman took an instant dislike to Ross. He had the eyes of one who was never disappointed because his expectations of humanity were too low to allow for it.”

Interestingly, narrative is rarely from Parker’s point of view, but that works out just fine. Walsh makes an appearance for a bit; as does Sam, Parker’s daughter; a neighbor girl, Amanda; the local Realtor; a couple of people whom we know from the start are villains; the local police chief; and so on. Somehow, though this technique usually drives me to distraction, the story managed to retain front and center.

Just an excellent installment in the series, but as always I’d say this is not the place to begin (you could start at The Lovers, which does have Parker’s parents’ backstory). This series is really built on Parker’s development and to pick it up at a random point misses a lot of the nuance that makes it so meaningful. 

“Rachael kissed him on the cheek, and the affection of the gesture filled him with a tender sadness. The night before was lost to them now: It had been a small consecration, a minor epiphany, and no more than that, but sometimes such moments are all that we are given, and they are enough to fuel us, and give us hope that, somewhere down the line, another might be gifted.”

About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
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2 Responses to A Song of Shadows by John Connolly

  1. Melora B Campbell says:

    Oh dear. This sounds good but… sixteen books in the series? And the reviews of at least the first in the series make it sound really gruesome. Still, your reviews are always so good and you haven’t steered me wrong yet.

    • thebookgator says:

      Ah yes, this is not a Melora series. Definitely not. Something amazing happens but it is with judicious skimming that I persevered while Connolly found his feet.

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