Monday, August 1, 2016

A Dark thriller from a dark series

A Time of Torment

By John Connolly

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton 

Pub. date: April 7, 2016

Rating: 4 & 1/2 out of 5 stars


 One of my rules for reviewing is, "Never review the later book of a series I have not read.". It is also one of my most broken rules. Take the Charlie Parker detective/thriller series by John Connolly. I have been wanting to read them for a while. Asides from the main character being named after my favorite jazz musician, it seemed like a fascinating and complex thriller with a touch of the supernatural. Exactly the type of detective series I tend to love. Yet it was not until recently I decided to read one when i was offer the most recent A Time of Torment for review. Will the fact that this is number 14 of the series affect the power of the novel or my ability to catch the nuances inevitable in a quality series?

The answer is yes in a minor way and no in a major way. Charlie Parker is indeed a complex character with baggage that would sink the Titanic. He manages to die a couple times, have a deceased daughter who hover protectively around him, and carry an intense purpose that goes way beyond, "I want to catch the bad guy.". Connolly attempts to bring the tardy reader up to task during the start of the plot and for the most part, he succeeds. But I still felt I was missing some subtlety in a not so subtle protagonist. But once the story started, it wasn't really that big an issue. the skilled writing and tight plot carries the book.

In A Time of Torment, A man straight out of prison comes to Parker to tell his story. He was once perceived in public as a hero but soon was arrested and jailed as a child molester. He maintains he was framed as a punishment for killing two criminals in a hostage situation. His only real clue to who singled him out for punishment is a phrase uttered by one of his attackers while violating him in the inevitable jailhouse manner ; "This is for the dead king!". To make matters worse, once he tells his story to Parker, he disappears. Parker finds each of his leads are being killed or disappearing which only makes him more determined to find out what is really happening.

This starts an investigation by Parker and his two way-beyond-scary henchman Angel and Louis. Parker's tactics seem to have both his supporters and detractors in the law enforcement profession which helps Parker get away with a lot of things that Sam Spade and Nick Charles would never think of trying. His investigation leads to a group in West Virginia that is well insulated from the local law and have a century old reputation of actions that guarantee no law enforcement officer will try to bother them.

Parker is a bit of an enigma to me. He is foreboding and appears over-the-top goal-oriented. This is probably the part I am missing due to starting with book 14. But his dark charisma and determination does come through and I am all for him right down to the last body count. But much of this also has to do with how well the author incorporate other characters into a whole tapestry of unfortunates and borderlines . Connolly makes each character, major or minor, essential and a clue to the puzzle.

But the biggest "character" for me was The Cut. The Cut is an area not a person. It is an isolated part of West Virginia ,hopefully fictional, that the author endows with a unique sense of evil and dread. It takes on its own personality and is much as a part of the story as any person in the book. As Parker is led to The Cut,we learn more about all involved and by the time we get there, there is a dense and delicious amount of tension that has built up.

I may have not have gotten a total grasp of who Charlie Parker is than if i would have if I read the earlier books in the series. But what stands out is that John Connolly isn't dependent on one character being the sole reason for the story's existence. He wrote a story that, while not necessarily standing alone, is deep and colorful enough to be read out of sequence. There are many supernatural elements but the plot actually would stand well without them. But they do add unique elements to the story.

After reading this, would I go back and read all other 13 books? You're damn right I would. This was one hefty but involving read and well worth it for any thriller fan that likes a supernatural element to their detective yarns.

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