A Song of Shadows by John Connolly

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Portland, Maine. PI Charlie Parker has narrowly survived a savage shotgun and pistol attack. After technically dying three times in the hours after the assault, he is now recuperating in a house in the isolated village of Boreas. Watching from a distance – and posing as security consultants – are his friends Angel and Louis. Boreas Police Chief Cory Bloom is worried by the new resident, as Parker’s reputation for being a bringer of trouble and danger has preceded him. Sure enough, a dead man is washed up on the sea shore near Parker’s house and, a little further away, a family of four is killed and their house torched. A manhunt is underway for Oran Wilde, the family’s teenage son, who becomes an immediate – if improbable – suspect.

Down in Florida, meanwhile, a hired killer called Steiger kills a bartender, then tortures and slaughters his wife. His mission completed, he then receives instructions to head north – for Maine. Parker has made the acquaintance of widow Ruth Winter and her young daughter Amanda, and while Parker has custody of his own daughter – Sam – for a few days, it seems only natural for the two girls to become friends. As he is inevitably drawn into the death of the man washed up on the beach, he meets his old mentor, Rabbi Epstein, and learns that the local fatalities may be connected with attempts to extradite two old men to Germany, both allegedly former guards at a Nazi death camp.

There is another terrible death, this time within sight of Parker’s house, but fate – and daughter Sam – intervene in a spectacular fashion. Although Parker is again hospitalised after attempting to prevent the killing, he now has a real sense of the conspiracy closing in around Boreas, and is determined to bring it to a close, if necessary with extreme violence. As the story plays out to the end, with many ingenious plot twists, new readers are advised that there is always an undercurrent of the paranormal in Parker’s life, and it features most strongly here in the intriguing relationship between his dead daughter Jennifer and those who are still living. To remain in one piece – mentally, physically and spiritually – Parker must confront demons both close to home, and those who fight in the cause of ancient enemies.

Connolly describes evil like no other living writer. Evil just doesn’t do bad things; it stinks – literally. When the bad men appear in Parker’s world, there is usually a sense of bodily decay and corruption, there being no better example than Cambion the leper, who plays a small but crucial part in this story. The evil beings that torment Parker are not always like you’d expect from a Hollywood special effects department, but men who, with their hat pulled low over their eyes, can sit in a corner booth at a diner and drink coffee. At a distance, they are part of the scenery; get closer to them, and their malevolence begins to manifest itself.

Parker himself is either blessed or cursed – depending on your viewpoint – with an acute sensitivity towards a parallel world which remains hidden to most people. Connolly’s skill is in writing a brilliant conventional thriller, while making Parker’s dealings with his own ghosts totally plausible.

Read more about Charlie Parker in our PI Case Files, or see ourn our Guide to John Connolly’s Charlie Parker. Last year we reviewed the previous book in the series, The Wolf In Winter.

Hodder & Stoughton

CFL Rating: 5 Stars

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