John Parker is a Graduate-qualified English/Spanish Teacher, owner and director of CHAT ENGLISH, an English Language Centre in Avilés on the north coast of Spain . A voracious reader, he has particularly loved horror fiction for many years.
In this, the 14th Charlie Parker novel, we are lead to the main part of the story through the story of the Gray Man, a particularly sadistic serial killer who delights more in the suffering of his victims’ families than the actual deed of murder itself.
Thanks to Charlie and his aides, Louis and Angel, along with The Collector (of all people!), the Gray Man is swiftly dealt with and Louis informs F.B.I Agent Ross to come and get him. All of this happens in less than 30 pages of this long Parker novel but reminds of us something that happened back in the 11th book of the series, The Wrath of Angels. I would suggest that this novel is not the best jumping-on point and it is probably best to go back to the 12th novel, The Wolf in Winter at the very least.
And so we come to learn the sad tale of Jerome Burnel, a disgraced hero, a fallen idol. Burnel feels that his days on this earth are numbered and comes to Charlie to ask him to discover the truth about what happened to cause his disgrace. He tells his story and about how he ended up in prison, falling foul of a loathsome inmate called Harpur Griffin who repeatedly abused and raped Burnel. An important clue for Charlie is that Griffin had repeatedly whispered in Burnel’s ear, “This is for the Dead King.” while sodomising him. This brings us to the main part of the book as Charlie finds himself up against a community in isolation known as The Cut. Charlie Parker is the “Scourge of evil. Last hope of the lost.” Now, it is time to wage war.
I feel this is a memorable book for many reasons. Connolly’s prose is hypnotic and never lets you go. Whether he is describing scenes of extreme horror (those razor teeth in Chapter 14!) or giving us a history lesson about dead kings as he does in Chapter 48 (with returning character Professor Ian Williamson from Book 12, The Wolf in Winter), the reader is constantly entertained and desperate to know what happens next. Connolly expertly uses an extensive cast of characters to keep the plot constantly in motion. We even meet Alvin Martin from the first book which is a most welcome return.
Although some might complain that Charlie does not appear enough in this book, it seems clear to me that in both this novel and the last, Connolly is painting a bigger picture of which Charlie is only a part, albeit an extremely important one. In fact, halfway through the book, a significant and regular background character is unexpectedly dedicated a whole chapter by the author where we observe existence from their point of view. It is a key moment, I think. I get the impression that Connolly knows exactly where he wants to go with this and we will see the fruits of his labour in the next few books. There are a number of plot elements in this novel that are clearly going to have repercussions in the future. I am saddened that I will have to wait a while for the next book as Connolly is at the top of his form and has me completely hooked.
An absolute must-read.