When I get a new diary at the start of each year, I dutifully enter the birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions for family and friends, along with the various dates of dental and medical appointments and reminders of taxes and insurances due and such other events.
Then, despite my best efforts, I sometimes forget a few of them.
I never forget that.
This year, March fifth, saw a very heavily underlined entry in my diary for the publication of “The Woman In The Woods”, the sixteenth visit to the “honeycombed world” of Charlie Parker.
To those as yet unfamiliar with the series, Parker is an ex-detective now operating as a private investigator. Parker is a wonderful companion with which to spend time; in another period in history he may have been a knight or, perhaps, a gunslinger, riding to the aid of those most in need of assistance, ready to roll up his sleeves and dispense justice that, often, veers away from anything a court of law would hand down.
Parker’s journey to date has been beset by personal loss and grief and his investigations have led him to terrible people. People – beings – intent on chaos, misery, destruction and pain. And Parker knows pain only too well. He knows how to bear pain and how to inflict it.
Parker is dark and troubled. Parker is magnificent.
John Connolly has drawn inspiration from his love for classic tales of the supernatural and his fondness for gritty detective novels and, in doing so, has created a wonderfully rich and disturbing world for our hero to inhabit. Set primarily in Portland, Maine, in modern day America, Parker’s is a world seemingly familiar to us yet, disturbingly chilling. For his is the honeycombed world, in which death and the dead exist alongside the living, their agendas converging and influencing the outcomes.
Connolly’s Parker books are nothing so simple as a crime or a horror series. To describe them thus would be a disservice to the writer and to both the crime and horror genres. They are so very much more.
In the twenty years since Connolly first unleashed him, in 1998s “Every Dead Thing”, Parker, like the author, indeed like us all, has grown and aged. His experiences have moulded him, his friendships and alliances have been forged and his enemies have grown stronger and ever more wary of him. Parker has developed an understanding of the world in which he operates and, with each new novel in the series, a further part of the greater story that lies beneath the surface is revealed.
This latest novel sees the discovery in a wooded grave of the partly decomposed body of a young woman. Tests reveal she gave birth just before she died but no infant body is located nearby. Parker is employed to find the missing child.
As Parker investigates and begins to look for the child, others are also eagerly searching. For they believe the child will lead them to finding that which they have been desperately seeking for hundreds of years. With them they bring pain and death for whoever stands against them.
And Parker is in their way.
This is another terrific novel from the pen of John Connolly. Once again he has conjured up a thrilling tale and some truly terrible characters for the reader to enjoy and abhor in equal measure. Throw into the mix the author’s ability to sprinkle humour and wit among the violence and darkness and you have a fabulous addition to the Charlie Parker series. Long may it continue.
My one gripe is that the books are so damn readable and that you tear through them too soon.
Now, where is my diary and when can we expect number seventeen?