Review: The whisperers by John Connolly
(Hodder & Stoughton €14)
Set in northern Maine, close to the porous border with Canada across which anything can be smuggled -- drugs, cash, weapons or people -- John Connolly's latest Charlie Parker adventure kicks off when the haunted private investigator is asked by a troubled father to try to find out why his son, an elite soldier recently returned from the Iraq war, committed suicide.
Bennett Patchett is also concerned about a young woman who works as a waitress in his popular diner. He believes that her boyfriend, also an Iraq war veteran, is beating her and he wants that stopped.
Charlie's investigations suggest that a group of disenchanted former soldiers has begun its own smuggling operation, an act that has seriously irked the established players in this nefarious trade, the Mexicans, Colombian, Mohawk and biker gangs. He also discovers that there has been an epidemic of deaths among the former combatants, all apparent suicides, some in very strange circumstances.
From Parker's unique perspective, his discovery that the former soldiers' illegal cargo is something much stranger, much more terrifying and dangerous that anyone could ever imagine, is bad enough. That the illicit cargo, incalculably valuable ancient artefacts looted from Baghdad's Museum of Antiquities during the invasion, has aroused the interest of the reclusive Herod, a man obsessed by the strange, who is accompanied everywhere by an ethereal, shadowy and evil figure from the other world he calls The Captain, is even worse.
Parker calls in his friends, the lethal gay couple Louis and Angel, and as inter-gang war erupts the trio attempt to protect the innocent and prevent Herod from unleashing unimaginable terror on the world.
This ninth Charlie Parker outing works brilliantly on two levels. As a straight action-packed thriller with an ingenious and totally credible plot, The Whisperers zips along at breakneck pace to its explosive finale, while on its way effortlessly feeding the reader well-researched and fascinating information on issues such as post traumatic stress disorder, the difference between the Sumerian and Akkadian languages of 2300BC and the shameful treatment of war veterans by the Bush administration.
But as readers of any of the previous Parker novels will know, the private investigator has a foot or more in a parallel dimension, where the demons and terrors that haunt us all in our nightmares, for him take a real and physical shape and threaten his sanity and his life. Here John Connolly handles this alternative universe with a much lighter touch than hitherto fore, an admirable decision that is bound to bring him many more mainstream thriller fans.
This is a novel to enjoy on every level because Connolly writes like an angel. His prose is so good, so precisely nuanced, in a few short sentences describing something really scary that will literally make the hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention.
Connolly is unique among Irish writers in that all of his thrillers are set in America. He's a bestseller there and everywhere else and this one is another winner. It may be a cliché, but once picked up, The Whisperers is impossible to put down. His best yet.