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Wednesday, July 08, 2015

John Connolly and the Charlie Parker Series

Last month I received A Song of Shadows by John Connolly from NetGalley.  It is the 13th in the Charlie "Bird" Parker series, and I had read only two of the previous novels, The Wolf in Winter and The Whisperer.   The Charlie Parker series is one of those in which each book functions well as a stand-alone, but has characters that weave themselves in and out through the various books.   

Charlie is an anti hero haunted by the ghosts of his family; a flawed man who believes in evil (not just people doing bad things, but true evil) and feels bound to fight it; and who believes in justice over the law and has to live with the guilt when he crosses the line.

My blog review for A Song of Shadows is scheduled for Sept. 21, but I've already posted the review on Goodreads.  At the close of my review, I mentioned that I wanted to begin with the first book in the Charlie Parker series, and eventually, catch up on reading the entire series. 

I ordered Every Dead Thing (Book 1) and discovered that graphic violence is much more evident in this one.  NYPD detective Charlie "Bird" Parker is out drinking while his wife and young daughter are viciously murdered.  I almost gave up with that horrific description.  

After the death of his family, Charlie quits his job with the police department, quits drinking, and simply tries to keep his sanity.  Eventually, he sets himself up as a private investigator.  

The book is divided into two parts; it is almost as if there are two novels contained in the one book.  The two plots are connected, and Charlie begins to feel that he is finally on the trail of the man who killed his wife and child.  From a small town in West Virginia to New Orleans and the bayous of South Louisiana, Charlie pursues The Traveling Man.  Tante Marie, the blind woman with psychic ability, gives some credence to Charlie's belief that he is on the right track.

I haven't read anything by Stephen King (amazing, I know), but think Thomas Harris and Peter Straub and you have a mash-up of violence and the supernatural.  So...fair warning.  Had I not read the later books, the prologue of Every Dead Thing might have been the last I read in this series.  

But I had read some of the later books, and I did finish Every Dead Thing, and then I ordered another one. 

 Every Dead Thing won the 2000 Shamus Award for Best First Private Eye Novel; Connolly is the first author outside of the U.S. to do so.

Read in June.  Purchased.

Crime/Suspense/Horror.  2000.  Print length:  480 pages.

Dark Hollow (Charlie Parker Book 2)

Charlie takes a case looking for Billy Purdue in order to get child support for Billy's wife and child.  When Billy's wife and child are murdered, the obvious suspect is Billy, but Charlie isn't convinced that Billy is the culprit.

Guess what?  A lot of people die.  And this time the killer may be the subject of a child's rhyme.

Read in June.  Purchased.

Crime/Suspense.  2001.  Print length:  258 pages.

The Wrath of Angels  I really screwed up here, I clicked a link and ordered TWA (#11) instead of the third book in the series.  

I didn't even realize at first how far out of order it was.  While it still functions as a stand-alone, there are a lot of hints about what I missed in the intervening books, derailing my intention to read them in order until I caught up.

The Collector, Epstein, and Eldritch appear in this one, but I've missed their first appearances somewhere between Dark Hollow (Bk 2) and TWA (Bk 11).  

Not only the characters, but the conspiracy of good vs evil and supernatural elements is pretty well-developed in TWA, but I've missed the build up.

Crime/Supernatural.  2012.  Print length:  529 pages.

Below you can see the order of publication and the order in which I read them--duh!  What a mess.   

  • Every Dead Thing (1999)          fourth one I read - purchased
  • Dark Hollow (2000)                   fifth - purchased
  • The Killing Kind (2001)
  • The White Road (2002)
  • The Black Angel (2005)
  • The Unquiet (2007)
  • The Reapers (2008)
  • The Lovers (2009)
  • The Whisperers (2010)              first one I read - NetGalley
  • The Burning Soul (2011)
  • The   Wrath of Angels (2012)     sixth - purchased
  • The Wolf in Winter (2014)          second - NetGalley
  • A Song of Shadows (2015)        third - NetGalley

I will go back and pick up the rest eventually, but the truth is that having read 4 of them in June was excessive, especially since I read them so out of order.  It was too much brutality and murder to read in a few days, but I couldn't put them down.  I really needed a respite after all the darkness and will give myself a long break before continuing.

All the books in the series are all dark and frequently violent with a heavy emphasis on evil.  There are supernatural elements, quirky characters, witty dialogue, comic relief (with Angel and Louis), and a heaping helping of brutality.  They are really not for everyone, and I am surprised that I've enjoyed them so much.  The series is categorized as Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, and Supernatural on Amazon; I think I'd have to add Horror, as well.

If you participate in Carl's RIP Challenge, keep John Connolly in mind!

Oh, one last thing, several years ago I read The Book of Lost Things by Connolly which is a beautifully written fairy tale for young readers!


  1. This is a series that I've meant to read for years. I think that Cath at read_warbler was the one that I first heard praise it. And I don't really mind the darkness of the books. Now, to get the first one and begin. Or maybe I'll wait until the fall. I've been thinking of doing the RIP Challenge for a long time.

    1. Just a reminder, the prologue to the first one is the roughest part of the first book...of all of the books I've read so far. It would make a good book for the RIP Challenge!

  2. I have the first book in this series somewhere in my TBR stacks. It came recommended to me years ago by a friend. I just never got to it. I used to not mind graphic violence, but I'm not a huge fan of it now. Still, it may be worth it to get to the later books . . . Hmm.

    1. Connolly really does remind me of the way I felt when I first read Thomas Harris-- disturbed, but compelled. Connolly can really lighten things up with occasional humor and his dialogue is excellent.

  3. I think I've one of his books in my pile but just didn't have the mood of reading it right now. I may read it at some point, though.

    1. Don't read them when your alone in a dark house! :) The books really do require a certain mood.