Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Charlie Parker Thriller, A SONG OF SHADOWS by John Connolly

US cover
With the 14th in his series of Charlie Parker suspenseful thrillers, A SONG OF SHADOWS, John Connolly has another winner: a work of crime fiction so intense and so character-driven that the strands of paranormal occurrences woven into the plot make perfect sense and effectively ramp the tension higher.

And from me, that's saying a lot, because I prefer my paranormal (I re-read Harry Potter) and my crime fiction (most of the rest of my shelves) unblended.

Connolly's Charlie Parker draws darkness toward him. We've all known someone like that. But in Parker's case, the forces of evil, enflamed by a malicious pervert with a powerful position in organized crime, have actually been hunting Parker for years. He gets in their way. Often. So do his teammates, Louis and Angel, who make the local real estate agent in the small Maine town of Boreas very nervous. Still, they manage to rent an ideal house in which Parker can recuperate, if that's possible, from the attacks that came close to ending his life and career in The Wolf in Winter (also set in Maine). It's isolated and readily defended.

Just as Parker moves into this house, where he can make his own slow rehab system to force his broken body back into action, the nearest -- but also very isolated -- house down the road also gains a tenant. Two, actually: a mother and daughter, Amanda.

Parker's casual assurance to young Amanda that she can meet and play with Parker's own daughter soon brings another potent strand of influence into the plot. Parker actually has two daughters, one dead, the other very much alive and living nearly a day's drive away with her mom on the far side of Vermont. What Parker doesn't at first realize is, Amanda's making connections with both of those daughters. And there's something else about the girls that Parker is actually scared to look at directly.
He was certain that tonight, after all he had endured, he must surely die.

A cool hand was laid on his forehead, the skin so chill as to be spangled with frost. Through his tears he saw it gleaming in the moonlight, sparkling like the light of dead stars. A voice spoke


and he felt the coldness of her breath, and smelled the scent of a world beyond this one. ... He lay on the floor in a fever dream as his dead daughter comforted him.
Despite this aspect to the book and characters, A SONG OF SHADOWS is very much traditional crime fiction: As the American cover hints, and Connolly's chapter describing Boreas's founding and enduring "German-ness," one aspect of American crime has roots in covering up for Nazi sadists who've escaped begin caught since World War II. Parker starts to realize that his neighbors have some tie to a cover-up, and he needs to sort out which side they are actually on, a challenge made tougher by the resolute silence of Amanda's mom, and repeated attacks in the region.

I couldn't put it down. Part of the reason, obviously, is Connolly's powerful writing and finely tuned pace and suspense. The other is that the face of evil, and the linked hands of the good, as Connolly depicts them -- well, there's some truth in all that. And a really good book is one that makes it all a little clearer, and proves that the successes of the good are, well, ... worth their sacrifices.
UK cover

PS -- Connolly's website is a good resource and includes Chapter 1 of the book.

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