Saturday, 23 July 2011

A Year in Books 2011 - The Lovers / The Whisperers

One of the problems of a year in books is when I've read something that is part of an ongoing series. How do you talk about a book without getting stuck in what has gone before, without getting lost in back story? What are you writing about,the book or the whole series? The problem is bigger when it is book 8 in the series and bigger still when I liked it so much I promptly read book 9 straight away afterwards! I guess I should stick with talking about the series

The series in question is written by John Connolly and features Charlie Parker an American ex policeman who now operates as PI in the state of Maine. So far nothing that isn't in 100 other crime novels. As you'd expect he has a troubled past, Charlie's wife and child were brutally murdered by a serial killer , the capture of which formed the basis of the first book Every Dead Thing. So far so Silence of the Lambs, however what makes the the  books a tad different is the suggestion of the supernatural that seeps in and builds with each book until it becomes clear that Parker has more to deal with than just the usual two a penny serial killers with over active imaginations

The other thing that makes the book so different are the cast of supporting characters, the two most prominent are Loius and Angel a couple of gay hitmen that act as Charlie's personal protectors. It is a measure of Connolly's skill that the reality is nowhere near as ridiculous as I've just made it sound.

Connolly doesn't deal in black and white, every character has major flaws and ambiguous motivations. However, through the course of the 9 books the ties that bind Parker and his 2 friends strengthen and their friendship becomes the one constant.

The books are bleak shot through with the odd stab of black humour and dialogue that echoes Chandler and Hammett (although Connolly cites Ed McBain and James Lee Burke as bigger influences.) Not only is the dialogue razor sharp but also the villains are truly frightening. Most writers can do this one or two times but across 9 books to keep coming up with something different and a new kind of fear without falling into character is measure of Connolly's imagination and his skill as a writer.

Connolly is Irish and yet he his American voices seem so genuine that you would swear he was a native. His "foreignness" may be more apparent to his American readers although with the prizes he has won stateside somehow I doubt it. The fact that he has chosen to set the  books in Maine home of Stephen King shows he must be pretty confident in his talent

Gruesome crime and the supernatural are two genres that I don't usually read but this series has me hooked and keeps getting better and better

You can buy Every Dead Thing , the first in the series here and if interested it is well worth visiting his website where there is a plot synopsis for each book as well as a Q and A with the author

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