Source: Review copy
Publication: 18th April 2019 from Hodder & Stoughton
On a lonely moor in the northeast of England, the body of a young woman is discovered near the site of a vanished church. In the south, a girl lies buried beneath a Saxon mound. To the southeast, the ruins of a priory hide a human skull.
Each is a sacrifice, a summons.
And something in the shadows has heard the call.
But another is coming: Parker the hunter, the avenger. Parker’s mission takes him from Maine to the deserts of the Mexican border; from the canals of Amsterdam to the streets of London – he will track those who would cast this world into darkness.
Parker fears no evil.
But evil fears him . . .
One of the many treats at this year’s Noireland was a video from John Connolly introducing Adrian Dunbar, in Belfast to give a late night reading from Connolly’s works. It was, of course, packed and we sat with rapt attention, because John Connolly’s words are like little pieces of magic knitted together.
Which brings me to A Book of Bones. To get the most from this substantial book, it really helps if you have read the series, for the kernel of this book was germinated 20 years ago with Every Dead Thing and this book brings together a number of threads that have been floating through the series. Though background is given, it really does help if you know this series and its characters, because this is an important moment in the narrative arc of this series.
In an immensely satisfying read, Connolly takes us straight to the point where he left off in Woman in the Woods, i.e. with Parker in hot pursuit of the wonderfully named Pallida Mors and her companion, Quayle, the sleazy lawyer, who themselves are chasing The Fractured Atlas.
Parker’s hunting evil is coming to a head; events seem to be heading towards an apocalyptic conclusion. The Fractured Atlas is a book of unspeakable evil, with the power to alter the world we know. It is so dangerous that its pages have been scattered to keep it from doing irreparable damage, but over hundreds of years, hunters have searched for them with disastrous results.
When we first encounter him, Parker is working a case which could literally be at the mouth of hell – in Texas. He is about to testify at trial when he hears from Ross, his FBI source that Mors’ body, (she was wounded in the last book by Louis), has been found in Arizona. He travels there only to find that the body has been wrongly identified and so he calls on his long standing friends and avengers of evil, Louis and his partner, Angel to help him track down this fiendish pair.
Their journey will take them to Amsterdam and eventually into the UK, where two new characters to this series, Gackowska and Hynes are investigating the murder of young woman, Romana Moon, on a Northumberland moor. Hers is the latest of a series of seemingly sacrificial savage killings taking place at ancient burial sites.
Here Connolly pulls off a writerly masterstroke. The UK Cops are pretty much the protagonists of a straightforward police procedural. Their dialogue, behaviour and everything about them is so very different to the supernatural ethos of Charlie and his compatriots. Yet these two investigations sit side by side as the reader effortlessly is switched from one scene to the next, moving from the banter of two cops into the tortured realm in which Parker, Angel and Louis reside.
This is pure genius and though it shouldn’t work, it really does. Pulling his threads tighter, Connolly takes us on a journey that traces lightly past crimes and investigations, showing us where the threads join up and creating a rich, whole tapestry that both informs and sheds light on past mysteries.
As we learn that Quayle has slowly been collecting the pages and restoring the book, it looks like this is what has been behind much of the evil that Parker has encountered, evil has been bleed through the pages from the dark world into this one.
Building up to the crescendo, Connolly peels back the layers to show us the genesis of the evil in our society. From the rise of misogyny to terrorism and extremism, we see not only the supernatural overtones that have always been present to a greater or lesser extent in this series, but see that set in a real-world context. That’s what makes it truly terrifying.
Our hope must be that in a world where Parker, Angel and Louis are showing their scars and their battles have taken their toll, that they will still have the strength and the compassion to combat evil and keep us all safe in the battles that lie ahead.
Verdict: This is a must for fans of Connolly and Charlie Parker. Beautifully plotted, wonderfully layered and totally immersive, A Book of Bones is a triumph.
John Connolly was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1968 and has, at various points in his life, worked as a journalist, a barman, a local government official, a waiter and a dogsbody at Harrods department store in London. He studied English in Trinity College, Dublin and journalism at Dublin City University, subsequently spending five years working as a freelance journalist for The Irish Times newspaper. He divides his time between Dublin and Portland, Maine