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
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
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.
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.
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.