- Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
My introduction to John Connolly’s iconic private eye, Charlie Parker, didn’t come until I read the eleventh book featuring the ex-NYPD cop, “The Wrath of Angels” (Emily Bestler Books/Atria, a Simon & Schuster imprint, 480 pages, $26.00). This may be a personal best — or worst — for not knowing about one of the most intriguing fictional detectives, but better late than never.
I’m pretty sure the review copy came my way after I wrote a very favorable review of a book of essays about crime fiction authors, “Books to Die For,” a collaboration from the same publisher edited by Connolly and fellow Irishman Declan Burke (link to my Sept. 27, 2012 review of Books to Die For:http://www.huntingtonnews.net/45125.
In “Books to Die For” Connolly wrote glowingly of American mystery write James Lee Burke, creator of ex-New Orleans cop Dave Robicheaux, calling him
“… I believe, the greatest living prose writer in the genre. The other, now deceased, is Ross Macdonald….Burke taught me that the language of mystery fiction can aspire to the language of the finest literature, that there really should be no distinction between the two. A genre novel is not a poor relative of literature because it is a genre piece: it is poor only if the writing is poor and its reach is so modest as to count as the barest flexing of a muscle. There is only good writing and bad writing.” Connolly zeroed in on two of my favorite mystery writers in this passage.
Parker is the northeastern U.S. equivalent of Cajun Dave Robicheaux in all the important ways: He’s not above playing fast and loose with rules, to accomplish his goals — something anyone who’s read Burke’s Robicheaux novels will quickly recognize. Both Charlie and Dave have lost their wives to murderers. What distinguishes the two is the way Charlie Parker confronts supernatural elements, while Dave Robicheaux battles good old-fashioned pure evil.
Parker comes from his base in Portland, Maine, in the far southern part of the state to Aroostook County, at 6,672 square miles bigger than Connecticut and Rhode Island combined, and called simply “The County” by Maine residents. Fully 89% of the County’s area is forest, and it’s bordered to the east, west and north by Canada.
In the depths of the County’s woods, the wreckage of a plane is discovered. There are no bodies, and no such plane has ever been reported missing, but men both good and evil have been seeking it for a long, long time.
What the wreckage conceals is more important than money. It is power: a list of names, a record of those who have struck a deal with the devil. Now a battle is about to commence between those who want the list to remain secret and those for whom it represents a crucial weapon in the struggle against the forces of darkness.
The race to secure the prize draws in private detective Charlie Parker, a man who knows more than most about the nature of the terrible evil that seeks to impose itself on the world, and who fears that his own name may be on the list. It lures others, too: a beautiful, scarred woman with a taste for killing; a silent child who remembers his own death; and a serial killer known as the Collector, who sees in the list new lambs for his slaughter. But as the rival forces descend upon this northern state, the woods prepare to meet them, for the forest depths hide other secrets.
Someone has survived the crash. Something has survived the crash.
With its many subplots and characters, “The Wrath of Angels” may be a book you’ll have to reread to appreciate. And that’s a good thing.
About John Connolly
I was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1968 and have, at various points in his life, worked as a journalist, a barman, a local government official, a waiter and a “gofer” at Harrods department store in London. I studied English in Trinity College, Dublin and journalism at Dublin City University, subsequently spending five years working as a freelance journalist for The Irish Times newspaper, to which I continue to contribute, although not as often as I would like. I still try to interview a few authors every year, mainly writers whose work I like, although I’ve occasionally interviewed people for the paper simply because I thought they might be quirky or interesting. All of those interviews have been posted to my website,http://www.johnconnolly.com.
Connolly is the author of Every Dead Thing, Dark Hollow, The Killing Kind, The White Road, Bad Men,Nocturnes, and The Black Angel.