Yesterday I made a terrible mistake. I allowed myself to get sucked into my normal pattern of reading to the detriment of all other pursuits and in doing so I have raced to a point of total happiness and yet mild frustration. Happiness as the book I was reading was good. So very, very good. Frustration because (as the author quite rightly pointed out to me this evening) it will be a while before another one is out and I should have paced it.
The trouble is, when it comes to John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series, I just can’t do it. I have to consume in one sitting. I am like a junkie in need of a fix and these books know just how to hit the sweet spot. I have loved them all and feasted on them greedily. They are the books which inspired me to start reading while on my exercise bike so at least part of me was still moving once in a while.
As soon as I found out there was a launch date for this latest offering, ‘A Time of Torment’. I was straight in there with a pre order. I have waited patiently since September, reading and then re-reading the first 13 books on offer. Much to my shock I have come to realise that it was only on April 15th last year that I ordered my first Charlie Parker book, Every Dead Thing – what a long way I have journeyed since then, (around 1800km if my exercise bike can be believed.) Having seen the shift in Parker’s focus and motivation at the end of ‘A Song of Shadows’ I could not wait to see what was in store in this new offering.
I was not disappointed, for Charlie Parker is now a man on a mission, a new fire in his eye and a demeanour which strikes a little fear into all that know him, for they can see how he has changed. And who can blame him. I guess being shot and left for dead will kind of do that to a guy.
In ‘A Time of Torment’ we now see Parker’s focus is fully upon hunting down the people in the list of names found in the plane wreckage. Not all of them, just those he feels may be able to feed his desire to obtain as much knowledge of those who would see him dead as he possibly can. On the payroll of Ross at the FBI, and harnessing the power of and fear inspired by The Collector, Parker is taking them down, one by one, all with one purpose in mind – to protect his daughter.
When Parker is contacted by an ex-con, a man accused of the most heinous of crimes but who still, following his release from prison, protests his innocence, his interest is piqued. There is something, at least for Parker, which rings true in the man’s story, the tale of an accidental hero who suddenly finds himself a much vilified and hated individual, tortured and abused in prison for a crime he did not commit. The man, Jerome Burnel, informs Parker that he expects to die before he is able to clear his name and asks him to find out who set him up and what happened to the only two people who had once believed in his innocence. Before leaving Parker, Burnel mentions something which is too intriguing to ignore, something that one of the other inmates had said to Burnel when attacking him. That he was doing it all in the name of ‘The Dead King.’ When Burnel subsequently goes missing, there is no question over whether or not Parker is going to investigate, more who is it that should be counting their lives in no more than a matter of days.
The story brings together a large cast of characters seen in previous Parker stories, a clear indication of the twisted world in which Parker lives and the supernatural element which drives the narrative. There is a clearer picture still of that otherworldliness that touches Parker’s life and more exploration of the role his dead daughter Jennifer has to play in protecting her father from harm. However, it is not her but another who is really protecting Parker, and yet he, like us the reader, still does not fully understand how.
The book is written in the typical Connolly styling, with some long passages of narrative giving a broad history of some of the more colourful or unknown elements of the setting. The net is cast wide for this story with action taking place both in Portland and in West Virginia. Angel and Louis are firmly ensconced at Parker’s side in this fight as they have always been, their banter and Parker’s sarcasm the same as ever and one of the keys to creating the success of the books. You have to acknowledge that it takes the three of them to make the story truly special and with the guest appearance of two friendly Japanese ‘tourists’ and the formidable Fulci brothers, the scene is set for the kind of showdown you have come to expect from this series.
The story is once again told in a third person narrative, no longer dependant on Parker’s point of view when he is present in order to inform the action. This typifies for me, the change in focus of these stories. It is now clear that Parker is not the centre of this particular universe, that much like Angel and Louis he is merely an ensemble player, albeit a very important one, and he is there to serve the needs of someone much greater than himself. And it works. In both ‘A Song of Shadows’ and ‘A Time of Torment’ there is so much of the story which takes place without Parker, that it would be hard to maintain a first person narrative throughout. Parker’s mere presence is enough to drive others to take action, and this is reflected in the fact he really has to do very little to create a very big mess. This is good because his profoundly wounded body is still failing him, the physical scars the quickest to heal.
I love the tone of these books and I love the supernatural element. Hell, I just love these books. The pacing is just right, the descriptions of both Maine and West Virginia so vivid that they conjure up a clear picture of the environs and the creatures that inhabit them. The characters are endearing, for all of the wrong reasons, so beautifully flawed that it is hard not to love them. They bring a smile to my face every time. And this is why I cannot put the books down. Why I am a ‘read in one sitting’ kind of gal when it comes to Charlie Parker.
Two things in my life make me very happy. Music, of which I have highly eclectic tastes, and books. When it comes to the latter I am a very happy nerd and proud to say that Authors are my Rock Stars. With that in mind, I’d have to say that Connolly is very definitely ‘The Boss.’ A very contended 5 stars from me. (Views entirely subjective and rambling and I don’t care 🙂 )