Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Whisperers by John Connolly

Charlie Parker is one of my favorite characters. Mysterious and melancholy, he is surrounded by violence, yet not violent himself. Otherworldly, and haunted by his past, he can be funny and irreverent.  His friends are both lethal and loyal.

For those unfamiliar with Charlie, his back story is this: an ex NYC cop, now a private detective living in Maine. His wife and young daughter were killed some years ago in a gruesome way while he was out getting drunk. Nothing new so far.  Charlie tracked down, and killed the murderer, and discovered a gift for ridding the world of a particular breed of serial killer. Along the way he has acquired the friendship of Angel, a scruffy ex-thief, and Louis, an elegant and deadly hit man, who are partners in crime and in life. The exchanges between Louis and Angel are often hilarious, and occasionally, heartbreakingly sweet. They are unswervingly loyal to Charlie, and their intercession often saves Charlie’s life. Louis’ marksmanship and flair for drama reminds me of Harlan Coben’s Win Lockwood, in the Myron Bolitar series. Recently, Charlie has fallen in love with Rachel, and has had another daughter named Sam. Rachel can’t take the violence that surrounds Charlie and has taken Sam and moved to Vermont, leaving Charlie bereft and alone.

This may seem like typical detective drama so far, but Connolly has added another layer to Charlie’s story. When I say Charlie is haunted by his past, I mean literally haunted. His murdered wife and daughter appear to him and others. And Charlie, through his investigations, comes to understand that he is a little different than other people. We don’t quite know how yet, but the figures he battles aren’t quite human, and he is followed around by characters that aren’t quite human either. One, The Collector, so named because he takes a souvenir from those he rids the world of, sees himself as “ridding the world of evil”, yet one feels as if he will one day be a threat to Charlie, even though they have an uneasy peace for now.

In The Whisperers, Charlie is again battling unseen foes. A group of soldiers has brought antiquities home from Iraq that they are selling to help each other with medical expenses. One of the antiquities is a Pandora-like box that contains a power causing them to commit suicide. "The Collector" ( from a previous  case) makes an appearance, as well as the rather gruesome "Herod". Particularly interesting is the insight into the soldier’s hardships once they returned from Iraq. Tired of empty promises, abandoned by the government they served, the soldiers are forced to band together to survive in a country that has forgotten them, and the promises made to them.  Crimes are committed in the name of compassion, blending the ethcal lines.  iParticularly good was the therapist’s conversation with Charlie about his own Post-Traumatic Stress and the affect it has had on his own life. Connolly  A unique blend of crime fiction and the supernatural, Connolly creates an eerie world and a tormented hero who battles inner and outer demons. 
Publisher: Atria; 1 edition (July 13, 2010)
ISBN-10: 143916519X
ISBN-13: 978-1439165195

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