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I've never read a Michael Connelly book, so for me finding John Connolly was deliberate: by recommendation, actually. It went something like this: "You like dark, don't you, Jay? Well, you need to read the Charlie Parker series by John Connolly. It's really close to the bone, set in and around the Maine area..."
Dark literature set in the Maine area? This sounded familiar, and I was tempted to ask if John Connolly was was another pen name for Stephen King. I resisted, and instead bought the first of the series. I've not looked back since. I later found out that JC is Irish, although from his literature it's hard to believe he didn't grow up in the shadows of the greatest horror writer of our time.
The Reapers is the seventh book of the series and something of a spin off. Two long standing characters in the series are Angel and Louis, assassin and thief respectively, lovers, friends and the primary reason why Charlie Parker is still alive by the time we reach book seven. As characters they are as charismatic as they are deadly, and their banter and teasing, not only between themselves but also aimed at Charlie, adds comedy and lightness to what is a very dark subject. They quickly became favorites of mine. When they were given a title of their own, I couldn't wait to read it. I wasn't disappointed.
Louis is a deadly killer, one of the best, but in this book he is about to come face to face with the killer of killers, Bliss, in a clash that will bring those he loves into harm's way. Not that they can't look after themselves: Angel is a thief and a killer, and Charlie Parker is, well, Charlie Parker is something completely different.
The fun of this book is the perspective. For once we see Louis as something more than a sidekick, and we realize that here is a man more complex and intriguing than perhaps even Parker himself. He is a man capable of love but also of terrible violence, both by gun and by word, most of the latter aimed at his long time lover, Angel. It also lets us see Charlie Parker, who normally narrates his story in the other books, from others perepectives, and we realize that his true identity is not as far from the surface as he, and us, are lead to believe. He is otherworldly, and that is sensed by those around him.
This book is a great read as a standalone, but you really have to be "in" the Charlie Parker world to understand and get the full pleasure from it. I recommend the whole series, but this particular book I enjoyed because of the differences and the change in pace, rather than the continuation in what is an epic tale of "biblical" proportions (and JC readers will understand exactly what I mean by that)
John Connolly's forte is in the supernatural mixed with a typical crime thriller. For me, it's what sets him apart form other similar mainstream thriller authors. Following along the lines of similar authors, he has created a group of characters who feature in his books - the series featuring private detective Charlie Parker (naturally, nicknamed 'Bird') has lasted for a few books up to this point, and Connolly has more recently taken a slightly different line with this, focusing somewhat more on Parker's criminal associates: lovers Angel and Louis, thief and assassin respectively.
The Black Angel and The Unquiet, Connolly's previous books in the series, saw the limits of the friendship and trust between Parker and his associates stretched almost to the limit, and now, with The Reapers, we get to see a bit more of Louis and Angel, as they feature with Louis' history having its turn to be developed. Connolly writes in two forms, regular text and italics, as the current story unfolds as well as providing forays into Louis' history and being found by a contractor to become one of the most feared of a group of cold blooded assassins for whom everything is business, and nothing (or nearly nothing) is personal: The Reapers.
But this is not a historical tale: the main focus is set very much in the present, with one of Louis and Angel's business interest, a motor repair garage, being the target of a group of thugs whose employer is treading very much on Louis' toes. When the tall, black assassin investigates further, he finds himself contracted through the contractor, the now ageing Gabriel, to head north and infiltrate a shady businessman multi-million pound complex and exact revenge as a job. However, he soon realises that nothing is above board in this job, and that there is more than meets the eye in this job.....there's something personal hidden beneath the professional facade.
What Connolly does very well here and build the tension. The book is very slow to get going, but it develops the characters that until this point we have had limited knowledge of. Current character development through previous books has been ample enough to provide the support for Parker's own troubled past, but now that Louis is the main protagonist in a book, there needs something a bit deeper, with a bit more gap filling than before. And it's interesting. If you have read the previous books in order, like I have, then it's a really riveting insight into a character who has always remained mysterious. If you haven't read the books, there's still enough here to gain a really good grasp of things, but you don't get the benefit of a handful of previous books' plot and character elements that, at times, really push the boat out and come into play.
There's a lot of planning in the book, and I think this is where the tension comes into play. Previous books in the series have focused on Parker, and he is the one with a certain supernatural element about him that has always unsettled the majority of people around him. However, this doesn't apply to Louis and Angel, who are almost like a sarcastic and dry comedy couple as opposed to the hard nosed 'crims with morals' that most people are afraid of. The building and development of how events unfold lend themselves to military strategy, and the lack of trust and the mutually consistent background checking of all characters when faced with someone unknown is a good way of Connolly giving us the characters and scene setting that we need for most books. It provides a depth to the book that is a good replacement for the lack of supernatural element that is often in place to set the author's work aside from his contemporaries.
Can I draw comparisons? Of course. You'd be a fool to think that there's anything completely unique about the writing here, and there are similarities on a regular basis to other authors. The difference is that while Connolly's previous books have been reminiscent of a cross between Stephen King and various crime thriller authors, the King element has been dropped here but only in terms of the supernatural. King's effortless scope for dragging out detail with riveting effects is certainly what sets him apart, but Connolly's writing is just as patient and determined, and still incorporates some of the more action packed elements of current thriller writers such as Michael Connelly, Lee Child, and even faster, quicker read authors such as James Patterson. Across the Pond, the plot developments hark of such writings as Rankin's Rebus and Robinson's Banks, with a smidgeon of McDermid's eye for detail in her crime thriller writing.
Connolly's style is like a cross between all of this, thus carving itself out in its own niche. Of all his books, it's certainly the better written one, the previous ones being very good, but feeling a little less memorable than his contemporaries. Now, though, with this book, he's emerging as a leader and not just one of the fold. His next book, The Lovers, is sitting there on my shelf, ready to read after Rankin's Doors Open. I'm going to give it a bit of a rest, though, as The Reapers is a book very much still on my mind, wit various elements of the plot and characterisation still on my mind. The way the story unfolds, with a few small twists that don't announce themselves in quite such an obvious and early fashion as a Linwood Barclay novel, has meant further thought after reading it, and this for me harks of a great book. I hope that The Lovers can continue that, as Parker comes back into the fray somewhat, mingled with the now established characters of Louis and Angel. Something's got to give, and I can't wait............
Unlike the other reviews I've read about this book I didn't buy it because I thought it was a Michael Connelly book, I actively search for John Connolly's work because I love his style of writing and the characters in most of his books. This is the latest book in the Charlie Parker series until later this year when The Lovers is released.
Charlie Parker is a troubled Private Investigator. Not troubled in the usual "my wife left me so I hit the bottle" or "unlucky in love and alone" kind of way, Charlie's wife and daughter were brutally murdered by a serial killer and he can't forget it. He isn't your usual P.I either and trouble seems to follow him around and usually ends with death of at least a few people at his and his friend's hands.
Louis is a trained killer who has helped Charlie many times in the past along with his partner in crime and lover Angel. Angel is an expert at picking locks and over-riding electronic systems and will kill only if he has to. Louis on the other hand enjoys the kill and can do it efficiently and expertly without any remorse.
The other main characters in this book are Willie Brew who runs a garage Louis owns along with Arno, and Jackie Garner and the Fulci brothers who also help Charlie out at times when he needs more muscle.
This book is about The Reapers. The Reapers were a team of highly skilled assassins trained and hired out by Gabriel. Louis was one of the best and so was a man named Bliss. The Reapers have all either died or gone their own ways by this point and only Louis and Bliss still survive. There is bad blood between the two of them and a showdown was always going to happen.
The difference between this story and the other Charlie Parker books is it's more about Louis and Angel and their world instead of them coming in at a later point in the book to help Charlie. It's kind of showing us what they do in between jobs and how they live as well as giving us a glimpse into their relationship. Up to this point we haven't been told very much about Louis and this book fills in the blanks about how he became a killer and what happened to him in his early years. We are all shaped by our lives and Louis is no exception. He is much more than just a killer and values his relationship with Angel above all else and is loyal to his friends.
For the first time in a John Connolly book Louis and Angel have become the target rather than hunting the target down.
I don't want to spoil the plot of this book so I can't say alot more about the storyline but it really fills in some details about certain characters that we've met in the other Charlie Parker books but don't know very well. Willie Brew and Arno have featured before as the garage is a place people who know Louis can get in touch with him but up until this book we knew nothing about Willie and Arno and this book tells us more.
Charlie Parker is currently working in a bar as he has lost his P.I licence and doesn't feature until the last third of the book to any extent and then he's brought in to help when things get desperate. Louis and Angel have their usual sharp banter going on throughout the story which helps to soften the character of Louis sufficiently to make him likeable.
As always John Connolly writes as if there is a very thin veil between the living and the dead, not in an obvious "look there's a ghost" kind of way but the suggestion is always there and the result is mildly eerie. This book has slightly less of that element than the others though and focuses instead on the darkness of man.
It's a fast-paced read with plenty of banter, death and emotion. Louis becomes a more rounded character thanks to this book and you can't help but hope he makes it. There is of course a twist to the story that ties up neatly by the end and at least one of our main characters doesn't live to be in the next installment but I'm not telling you who!
I'm eagerly awaiting the next Charlie Parker book and anyone who has read the others should read The Reapers, and if you've read The Reapers and not the others in the series then I recommend you get them. Each book works as a stand alone but they're better if you read them in sequence.
I bought mine for £3.49 from Tesco and Amazon have it new for £3.99 and from Amazon Marketplace it's £2.15. Highly recommended read from an excellent author.
I'll be honest. I bought this book because it was £2.99 when you buy The Times. Also, I thought I was buying a Michael Connolly (who writes similar, but more crime-oriented thrillers). I didn't mean to buy it as a hardened, dedicated fan. I'm not reviewing it as one either. But I may become one.
The Reapers, is, according to Connolly's website, his seventh novel in a series, which features a man named Charlie Parker, The Detective, as its main protagonist. Usually, being a methodical person, I like to start at the beginning and work forwards, but in this case, The Reapers wasn't a bad place to start, as it whetted my appetite, without answering all my questions.
Allow me to explain. The Reapers follows an episode in the lives of Louis and Angel. Apparently, in the other Charlie Parker novels, these two are his sidekicks; in this novel they take centre stage, with Parker appearing as a secondary character. This meant that I got hints of Parker's life and career to date, without finding out all that I wanted to know about him.
Louis and Angel are assassins, guns for hire. Well, they used to be, but they've sort of retired. An offer they can't refuse follows close on the heels of a threat they can't ignore, and they are sucked into "one last job". So far, so 'let's see if there's anything else on tv, shall we?'
I've never been a fan of books (or anything else) that try to be too gravel-voiced, square-jawed, man-of-mystery, 'so deep I can't speak', euphemisms-instead-of-plot, loads of tosh. I generally put down anything that refers to the main characters by codenames. At least, I assume that the character referred to throughout as "Bliss" wasn't christened such.... Connolly somehow managed to convince you that these men were dangerous, not just tragic loners who had a subscription to Which! Gun, and an abundance of time on their hands to watch Rambo.
There were some clever pieces of writing, and some good twists and plot devices; for example, the relationship between Louis and Angel is paralleled by that of Willie Brew and his friend and employee Arno. These last two are associated with Louis and Angel, somewhat reluctantly, as Louis part-owns Willie's auto-shop. Since the two main characters are assassins, and therefore by the laws of thriller-novels, cannot have too many emotions, the warmth and camaraderie of Willie and Arno serves to reflect their relationship.
Louis and Angel are not just partners-in-crime (sorry...), they are partners in life as well. This is hinted at at first, but Connolly doesn't make the mistake of being too coy with details, and confirmation that they are in a relationship adds a level to the character development, although there is a tendency towards the end to allow the relationship to slip into cliche.
Louis, the 'last of the Reapers', has his story told in flashback, the elements of which are as disturbed and disturbing as one would expect, given that his chosen career is killing people.
The whole book felt cinematic to me, the flashbacks, and the great dialogue, and the episodic structure. Each plot point was moved along a little way, then the camera panned to the next scene. This is a fairly common device in thriller novels, but Connolly handles is with more grace than some authors. He resists the temptation (take heed James Patterson) to leave every scene/chapter dangling on a cliff edge, and manages to avoid the breathlessness of some lesser authors. Instead, there is a sense of dignity, and stateliness to the action, which fits well with Louis' way of operating, and means that although the plot twists a few times, you never feel as if you are careering out of control, yet you never feel warm and cosy. Quite an achievement for a thriller. Connolly manages a bleak landscape without alienating the reader.
My only criticisms of the book are that there is an occasional tendency to rely on technical jargon (particularly in descriptions of weapons), which reduces the book to the level of gun-porn, and that one or two characters are introduced rather abruptly.
I intend to read the rest of the Charlie Parker novels, and if you enjoy intelligent, unusual thrillers, with more substance than the usual gore-fest, you may well enjoy this too.
The book is available when you buy The Times, at £2.99, otherwise, its RRP is £6.99. It is available in Paperback, and is published by Hodder.
It can get a little confusing having novelists with similar names, especially when they're writing in the same genre. Having been a fan of Michael Connelly and his Harry Bosch character for some time, the chance to try John Connolly was one worth taking, especially as I'd heard good things about him.
Louis and Angel are killers for hire, two of a group known as "The Reapers". Circumstance once forced them to kill to survive and so they came to the attention of a man called Gabriel who nurtured their talents and gave them work. After years of this, Louis couldn't continue and has become more of a businessman and property owner, although fear of his past career coming back to haunt him makes him careful and secretive.
Unfortunately for Louis, it seems that his fears have been realised. Both his home and his business have been targeted and it seems that the people who want him dead have hired Bliss; another former Reaper and someone who has his own reasons for wanting Louis dead. When Louis and Angel try to find out who is ultimately behind events, the answers aren't as obvious as they first appear.
At first glance, this doesn't sound anything terribly original. Any number of thriller novels and films feature former killers who have given it up, but who are persuaded to return for one last job for some reason. This makes it all the more difficult to impress an audience and even more difficult to find something new to say. In this respect, however, Connolly does very well.
Firstly, he makes a wonderful job of humanising the killers, so much so that you can easily pick out which side you should be rooting for, even in a battle between two sets of assassins. The relationship between the two killers is written in a very similar way to the relationship between Willie and Arno, two mechanics. They frequently bicker like old friends and the couple that they are, which means you're a lot more able to relax around them without just waiting for the next thing to happen.
That said, it isn't often that things aren't happening. Despite much of the novel being taken up with Louis and Angel's back stories, both together and separately, it is still full of action. There are a few parts where the pace is a little slower, particularly at the start where we're just being introduced to the characters, but apart from that Connolly keeps up a pretty high pace and that helps make the story very readable.
Connolly manages to avoid the unexpected, which is another aspect which made "The Reapers" as enjoyable as it was. Admittedly, the whole basic idea is a bit of a cliché, but within that idea, Connolly has branched out in some unexpected directions. The killing that started Louis on the road to becoming a Reaper was predictable both in target and motivation, but the method came as something of a surprise. Much was true later on in the story, where events were perhaps predictable, but the way they came about wasn't and I found not being able to second guess the course of events quite refreshing in a book of this kind.
If there is one disadvantage to the book from my point of view, it's that it isn't really aimed at newcomers to Connolly. Louis and Angel are treated a little like people you should already know and they discuss former commissions as if the reader should already be aware of the details behind it. When Connolly's signature character Charlie Parker becomes more involved later on, his back story is also referred to briefly, again seeming to assume that the wider details are already known. Whilst this would not be a problem for an existing fan, it did prove a minor distraction for me, wondering what details I might have missed. It is to Connolly's credit, however, that this wonder made me want to read back through his earlier books, rather than annoying me with the lack of details presented here.
What I found was a highly enjoyable book that aside from a couple of minor points, proved to be a quick and easy read. It's simply written, but the nature of the genre and of the characters involved here demands that and this helps keep the pace of the story high and stopped my interest in events from waning at any stage. Admittedly, it's the kind of book that would really only appeal to fans of thriller writing and someone looking for a book to pass the time. If this is the kind of book you're looking for, I would certainly recommend "The Reapers" and, to judge from what events Connolly hinted at from his earlier books, the author in general, especially with copies available from as little as 95 pence on eBay.
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, to which he continues to contribute. He was the first non-american to win the U.S SHAMUS award and he has recieved nothing but critical acclaim for all of his novels starting with his brilliant debut, EVERY DEAD THING featuring ex-cop, CHARLIE PARKER.
THE REAPERS is the seventh Charlie Parker novel and is original in that it is the first in which Parker plays only a minimal role; turning up as a cameo apperance right at the novel's climax. Instead his constant companions, Angel and Louis, here take centre stage with Parker keeping a very low profile after losing his P.I licence and attracting the intrests of some very sick and powerful men. To have a retired burgular and a hitman-with-conscience as your main heroes is a very brave move, but it is a very clever one too as Connolly finally delivers the story fans have been waiting for; the real truth behind the enigmatic Louis and the reasons why he became the man he is today.
Angel and Louis are two men with a very shady and checkered past; we know that. Partners in every sense of the word, they have established a bit of reputation, along with Charlie Parker, for taking out some very bad men with very sick and twisted appetites but their most recent exploits have attracted much unwanted attention from the very people they make it their business to hunt down. When the pair go out of their way to dissuade a contract put out on Parker's life, they find themselves getting caught up in events beyond their control. A figure who featured heavily in Louis' past has re-emerged and is making it his business to terminate the last of the Reapers; an unofficial collective long regarded as the Elite of hitmen-for-hire. Louis was once one of the best of the Reapers until he walked away but now events are conspiring to bring him face-to-face once more with the assassin formerly known as Bliss.
When Angel and Louis themselves become targets, their enemies strike not at them directly but at the people who surround them. An assault is made on their apartment building and a garage they have intrests in is also attacked. Discovering who is behind these affronts, the pair set out to take proactive action not realising that a trap has been set and that Bliss is waiting for the pair to make their move before he closes in. As the net closes around Angel and Louis, it is up to Charlie Parker to come to their aid but the big question is can he find the pair before it becomes too late......
Forsaking the more paranormal elements that have featured so predominantly in the more recent Parker novels, and thats no bad thing, THE REAPERS is a more conventional thriller with unconventional heroes. For the first time we get to see Parker from an outsiders perspective (the other Parker novels are told from his viewpoint) and the welcome return to the series of Willie Brew, the owner of the garage Louis and Angel own a percentage of, who featured very briefly in EVERY DEAD THING. There are further hints dropped that Parker, and by his association Angel and Louis, are headed towards some kind of destined battle with forces beyond their comphrension sometime in the future and that although this unlikely trio is on the side of the angels, that the angels are far from happy about their allegiance. But that is as much reference we get to any of the increasingly more supernatural factors that have slowly began creeping into Connolly's novels and, as enjoyable and original as they make the series, it is nice to get a bit of a break from them and get back to basics with a good old-fashioned thriller.
This is one of the best if not the best of Connolly's novels to date. Angel and Louis have long been men of mystery to the readers and it is good to get some enlightenment into their characters and some long-awaited back-story. There are some very clever elements to this novel too with one scene straight out of BUTCH AND SUNDANCE and plenty of witty one-liners slipped in to break up the tension of which there is aplenty. This is a novel that will keep you hooked from the start like a fish caught on a line and sitting on the edge of your seat as the numbers slowly stack up against Angel and Louis and consistently refuse to change to their favour. As supporting characters, the pair have slowly managed to establish a fanbase of their own and REAPERS is a sure sign that this series has become just as much about them as it is Parker. True this is diffrent to all the Parker novels that have come before, but like I say this can only be a good thing and this latest entry breathes new life into a series that had threatened to become a tad repetitive and depressing with its recurring themes of child abuse, paedophile rings and hidden, supernatural forces exerting their influence on the world around us. Don't get me wrong, Connolly's world is a dark and menacing one and this is no snow white and the seven dwarves, but it is a welcome beam of light in a series that threatens to be consumed by its own darkness.
Wasn't it Friedrich Nietzsche who said something along the lines of " when you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back into you..." ?
Never has a quote been so apt as when referred to Connnolly's novels....
They are the Reapers, the elite among killers. Men so terrifying that their names are mentioned only in whispers. The assassin Louis is one of them. But now Louis, and his partner, Angel, are themselves targets. And there is no shortage of suspects. A wealthy recluse sends them north to a town that no longer exists on a map. A town ruled by a man with very personal reasons for wanting Louis's blood spilt. There they find themselves trapped, isolated, and at the mercy of a killer feared above all others: the assassin of assassins, Bliss. Thanks to former detective Charlie Parker, help is on its way. But can Angel and Louis stay alive long enough for it to reach them?