For his 17th novel in the Charlie Parker series, John Connolly has chosen to take his eponymous detective out of his usual hunting grounds in rural Maine and transported the action to Amsterdam and London. This doorstep of a novel – nearly seven hundred pages – completes the story which began in last year’s The Woman in the Woods. You can read our review of that novel here.
The Woman in the Woods ended on somewhat of a cliff-hanger. The evil English lawyer Quayle and his murderous associate Pallida Mors were frustrated in their attempts to collect the final missing pages of an occult text called The Fractured Atlas, a book said to confer the power to remake the world on its owner. Should Quayle have succeeded, then apocalypse would have been brought forth. Parker’s associate Louis was wounded in a shootout with Mors, and Parker was frustrated in bringing the murderers to justice.
Acting as a consultant for the FBI, Parker is joined by Louis, Angel and rare book expert Bob Johnston on a trip to Europe to track the pair down. Johnston will go to London in the hopes of finding as much information as possible about the Atlas, while the rest head to Amsterdam in search of the forger who made the passports that Quayle and Mores used to enter and leave the US.
Quayle and Mors have not been idle. The former expects Parker to catch up with him at some point before he can complete his infernal work, and senses something of the unnatural in the detective which sparks both his interest and fear. Quayle’s occult beliefs require him to gain power by sacrifice. In order to defeat the private detective Parker, and to bring about the end of the world, Quayle has identified two men with sadistic impulses who live in opposite parts of the country, Sellars and Holmby, and sent them forth, under the watchful supervision of Mors, to commit ritual murders in ancient pre-Christian holy sites.
Irish author John Connolly has never shied away from placing supernatural elements in his crime series, and never has this been more evident than in A Book of Bones. The size and scope of this novel allows for a thorough and fascinating exploration of British folklore, and Connolly uses all that he has found to create a gothic atmosphere of dread. For all of the horror elements present, and there are many, this remains a crime novel with horror shadings rather than the other way around. The inclusion within the story of the local police investigation into the murders helps to ground the book in the physical realm.
Elsewhere, the reasons for Parker’s enduring appeal are all present. The battered detective, gruff and taciturn as he is, remains appealing for his simple refusal to give in. Connolly’s prose is lyrical, almost literary, and his storytelling instincts for plot and pacing are as sound as ever. However, after a very long build up during the story, the final confrontations are too short, almost perfunctory.
I wouldn’t recommend making A Book of Bones your introduction to Charlie Parker, but if you are unsure at committing to the whole 17 book series, then The Woman in the Woods and A Book of Bones read sequentially makes for thrilling reading, and a satisfying story-telling experience with a definite beginning , middle and end.
Hodder & Stoughton
CFL Rating: 4 Stars