A Song of Shadows
A Charlie Parker thriller by John Connolly
Book review by Jules Brenner
Atria/Emily Bestler Books, released 9/29/2015, 448 pp., $26.99
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What can an author of crime fiction do that is more dramatic than killing off his central character at the end of the story? It's a guaranteed shocker! I seem to remember Walter Mosley playing with the life and fate of his Easy Rawlins character in "Blond Faith" of 2007, perhaps foretelling the end of the character two books (and seven years) later. Closer to the point, however, is Jeff Lindsay's (again, foreboding) "Dexter's Final Cut," penultimate to "Dexter is Dead," wherein Lindsay leaves no doubt about his hero's demise.

More recently, Mark Henshaw started his "The Fall of Moscow Station" in the same modality as Connolly starts this: with his hero recovering from near-mortal injuries carried over from the previous book's climax. The climax in question here takes place in Connolly's "The Wolf in Winter," the preceding Charlie Parker episode.

And, so, Connolly's Portland-based private detective Parker, formerly of the NYPD, starts out with a period of recuperation following very serious surgery -- with one kidney less and painful headaches plaguing his every moment. But, a retreat to a quiet seaside town in Maine is no escape from violence, when a peaceful existence and a friendship with Ruth Winter, a widowed single mother, is ripped away by the madness of some very evil folks to whom the nazi swastika is a living source of inspiration -- who are eyeing the lady with horrifying malice because of her deepest secrets.

A coincidence? Hardly. Connolly doesn't write a book if it's not larded with villains who push the term to its most dreadful limits (with sprinkles of the supernatural). It's very compelling to a mystery reader how this Irishman makes up a brew of fascinating story with a solidly sympathetic central character whose presence pulls strains of cold nastiness out of the shadows as though it's part of a magnetic aura.

Part of Parker's magnetism comes from the natural way he has of putting his life on the line for those he sees as worthy of defending despite life-threatening odds. And, while Connolly may have used the narrow-escape-from-oblivion shockwave for character-recharging purposes, his narrative has standalone qualities and should receive attention.

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