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Ever since his debut novel,EVERY DEAD THING,author John Connolly has gone from strength to strength with each successive novel.Returning once again to the world of ex-cop turned private investigator Charlie "Bird" Parker,The Black Angel takes us further down the path Connolly has been leading us as this book strays further away from the tradditional serial killer genre and more into the realms of the supernatural thriller.
For those who haven't read any of Connolly's work before,this may not be the best place to start as this novel is intrinsically linked to each of his previous Charlie Parker books and features plenty of references to earlier events and characters.Of course it can be read as a stand-alone but the full impact and enjoyment I feel will be extremely diminished which would be a shame as this is a real gem of a novel that opens the door to all sorts of possibilities in future novels.
Basically,EVERY DEAD THING told the story of how Charlie Parker returned home to his wife and daughter to find them mutilated and killed by a serial killer known only as The Travelling Man whose obsession with artists reproductions of human vivesection spilled over onto his victims.Determined to chase down his wife and child's killer,Parker left the force(not entirely of his own choosing)and set off down a slippery quest for vengeance aided by ex-burglar Angel and his partner,hitman-for-hire Louis.
Along the way,his journey took him on an unforseen and unexpected turn and before the novel was over,Parker found himself facing not just one demon but two and laying more than one soul to rest.He also became the unwilling recipitant of a gift from a dying Louisiana voodoo witch woman and from then on found himself becoming if not psychic,then certainly more sensitive to things other people might or might not be able to see.
Over the course of the next few novels,Parker's attempts to turn over a new leaf and begin his life anew are constantly thwarted as he finds himself being drawn into helping people just as unfortunate as himself.Haunted too by the restless spirits of his dead wife and child,Parker becomes a man on the edge-continually falling back on his allies,Angel and Louis to help him as he delves into a seedy,sordid underworld full of murderers,serial killers,pushers,pimps and dealers.His former colleagues on the force meanwhile become reluctant to help or acknowledge him;witnessing what he has become and disturbed by the amount of bodies he appears to leave in his wake.
In Parker's defence,not all of these bodies are always his fault though in the eyes of the law,his association with Angel and Louis tars him with a very dirty brush.
Which leads us nicely to The Black Angel whereupon it finally looks as though Parker has found something to live for again with him and his girlfriend planning the christening of their newborn child.
Unfortunately Fate has other plans in mind and when a relative of Louis turns up missing from the streets-Parker finds himself unable not to offer his assistance.
This puts an expected strain upon his relationship with girlfriend,Rachel but it is almost as though Parker feels he has no choice.Torn between two lives,he constantly finds himself returning to the world he knows the best-convinced that some kind of Fate or Destiny has sent these people in need his way because only he can help.
And who is to say he is not right-what begins as an investigation of a missing working-girl junkie soon becomes a quest to stop an ancient statue from falling into the hands of those who believe themelves to be the original "fallen" angels cast out of Heaven at the dawn of creation.
This same group seem to know an awful lot about Parker too-at times far more than he appears to know himself and this novel is as much an enlightenment for him as it is for the reader as many questions about Parker's obsessive quest for justice and his friendship with Angel and Louis are given some form of explanation.
Though fairly longer than his previous work,and Angel and Louis are at times pushed to the background(this is definetly Parker's story),this novel takes the series in a direction it has been threatening to pursue for the last two books and goes some way to exploring Parker's explosive and destructive nature.
The supernatural elements are given more free reign than we have ben used to but work well in tying a lot of loose ends together.
Overall a very satisfying piece that leaves you hanging for the next Charlie Parker novel-which hopefully may be a bit more upbeat than this entry(though not too upbeat hey john)!!
With The Black Angel, John Connolly takes his Charlie Parker series a step further away from the conventional serial killer thriller and over the border into supernatural horror--which, in fairness, is where these extraordinary books have been heading from the beginning. The question of why and how so many bad people find their way into Parker's orbit has always been lurking in the background of his novels; why so many ghosts of victims point him the way to vengeful justice and why so good a man is so fond of his killer for hire friends Louis and Angel. Many writers would just leave these as givens, but Connolly has too much integrity for that. The search for Louis' junkie whore cousin, and her abductors, leads the trio ever further into darkness. They have fought evil obsessives before, but none as bad as the Believers, a group obsessed with fallen angels and with the strange sculpted objects men have made from human bones. This time at least there is a possibility that what the Believers believe is true, both what they believe about the world and what they believe about Parker--this is a book which ought to be insane and ludicrous and is in fact chilling. --Roz Kaveney --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.