Saturday 20 January 2018

Review: Thriller: The Burning Soul by John Connolly

Hodder & Stoughton £17.99

In John Connolly's 10th Charlie Parker novel, Anna Kore, a 14-year-old girl, goes missing in the small and isolated town of Pastors Bay on the Maine coast. Troubled private investigator Charlie Parker is surprised to find himself involved in the case. His client is not the child's distraught mother, Valerie, but rather a reclusive local accountant called Randall Haight, who fears he will become the prime suspect in the child's disappearance.

Haight nurses a dark secret. Years ago, when in his early teens, he and his best friend Lonny Midas were convicted for the murder of a young girl. They served long sentences for the crime, and then were released with new identities provided by the government.

Haight fears his seemingly blameless new life will be threatened if Anna isn't found quickly. Worse still, from his point of view, is that someone seems to have discovered the truth about his past and is taunting him with anonymous messages about the terrible crime he committed.

Because he holds little hope that Anna Kore will be found alive, her disappearance has troubling resonances for Charlie Parker. He is, almost literally, still haunted by the loss of his own wife and child, who were brutally murdered some years before by a stranger, and his most recent lover, Rachel, has left him, taking their daughter, Sam, with her.

As he investigates the disappearance and his client's past it is akin to peeling an onion. Each layer reveals a new secret. What possible reason could brutal and threatened Boston mobster Tommy Morris have for arriving in Pastors Bay with two hitmen in tow? Why is the FBI, in the shape of his old nemesis Special Agent Engel, so opposed to his presence in Pastors Bay? Who is sending him poorly spelled text messages suggesting the town's chief of police is a paedophile?

He realises the case is far more complex than it appears, so he summons his odd and hugely eccentric friends, Louis and Angel, to lend investigative support, and the awesomely chemically-enhanced Fulcci brothers, Pauli and Tony, as muscle.

With their help, Parker's dogged detective work discards all the layers of a complex story leading to an explosive and terrifying end game.

In The Burning Soul, John Connolly has delivered a cracking good tale that seamlessly blends suspense, mystery and just the lightest touch of his signature supernatural ambience.

As always, Connolly writes beautifully. He brings the backwoods of Maine alive, and the main and secondary characters are all acutely observed and appear to be drawn less from the tradition of Grand Guignol than some of the previous novels in the series.

The impression is that Connolly is quietly and quite deliberately nudging Charlie Parker into mainstream detective fiction.

Myles McWeeney

Indo Review

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