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The mark of a great series of books is not necessarily how good each one is individually, but in the development of characters and events throughout the series. At least, that's my viewpoint, and when I consider John Connolly's series of Charlie Parker novels, I think back to the very first one, a raw former police detective turned PI with a supernatural subconscious and an aura that scares bad guys ofan equally supernatural nature; a man aching having lost his wife and daughter, seeking retribution from any direction.
Coupled with him as the lead, other characters such as the assassin Louis and his boyfriend Angel the master thief, and Parker's mob connection Jackie with his goons the Fulci brothers. Parker has his fair share of helpers to call on when needed, and while they're not always used, they're always in my mind whenever I pick up a Parker novel. This latest one, The Wrath of Angels, gets more sinister than before, reintroduces a villain and accounts for a number of dangers to Charlie, not least that which is most often forgotten in series - age.
Rumours of a lost crashed plane deep in the woods in a remote country in Maine reach the wrong ears. They come calling but no one knows anything; or at least nothing is willing to share. Efforts range from violence to seduction, but there are still no answers. However, two ageing locals once encountered the plane, a mysterious girl seen lurking nearby and the thing that everyone is trying to get their hands on - a list of names. No one knows what the list does, but when one of Charlie Parker's arch-nemeses returns seeking it out, you just know that there is going to be an almighty risk in Charlie getting involved. But when things get personal and he can no longer ignore what is going on, he must call in the familiar troops or be defeated, never to return. The plane, the list and what happened to the passengers must all be uncovered.
The one thing Connolly does best here is to remind us that it's been a long time since the first Parker book. Charlie's not getting any younger, Louis is starting to grey around the temples (although he hasn't lost any of his ruthless deathly assassin skills) and frankly, we're all wondering how many lives these guys have. The biggest thing about the book for me is not the plot therefore, but the way in which the characters are treated within it. The plot itself is actually rather tame. There's a lot of plot development right from the start, and much like a Stephen King novel, the development doesn't tend to go anywhere and a lot of the detail could technically be skimmed as far as importance to the overall plot is concerned. Lesser characters and locations are immaterial, as are the actions of these few, but Connolly manages to fill quite a lot of the pages with their actions. This isn't completely wasted, but the final elements of the book are actually crammed into a relatively short space within the book right at the end, and you get that abrupt feeling that is slightly annoying when you suck in the last few lines.
However, I feel this is more a testament to how well Connolly closes books rather than a negative reflection on the slower pace of the majority of the book. Perhaps the increase in pace is how it should be, with the danger everyone is put in providing a natural catalyst for devouring the pages quicker and quicker the closer you get to the end. Parker is certainly shown as older throughout the book, and it's as if Connolly is finding a way to getting past the sort of stalemate with everyone surviving all of the time. Take this book on its own and you could get the image of a bunch of middle-aged men behaving as if they were a lot younger, but the reality is that this is just a ponderance of what should happen next. I'm glad he has done this, as it means that development is being thought of, that this isn't just a book with timeless heroes like a Bond film; it's more like a Rebus novel from Ian Rankin where he wants the character to age with time.
Ultimately, the power is always in the hands of the author. Connolly maintains the supernatural discomfort that draws me to his books, while giving us a dose of reality. The tale itself isn't the most exciting, but I'm glad that the character development is going somewhere, having been near stalemate for the past few books. It breaks the monotony of the series, so while I can't give it top marks because the plot isn't his best, I applaud how the development is coming along - it makes me want to grab the next one straight away. For the moment though, I have caught up - I guess I'll just have to wait...
Wrath Of Angels is the latest and umpteenth novel from Irish author John Connolly to feature his Private Detective Anti-hero, Charlie Parker, and once more focuses on the ongoing battle he seems to have found himself caught up in between the Forces of Light and those of Darkness.
The story starts with an old man calling his son and daughter to his side on his death bed for one last confession. Many years ago, he and a friend, long since departed from this world, discovered a plane deep in the heart of the woods of Falls End, Maine. Inside, they found a large stash of money and a list. The pair took the money and agreed to keep silent about their discovery, despite others coming to the town and discreetly (and sometimes not so discreetly) inquiring around the locals for any information; often posing as hunters as they conducted their search for the whereabouts of the plane.
Now, the old man decides it is time to reveal the secret he has been keeping all these years and tells his daughter that she must tell Charlie Parker about the fallen plane and, more specifically, about the list they found inside. Because the list contains a series of names of those who have traded their souls and, should it fall into the wrong hands, then all could be lost.....
This is another great thriller from Connolly who again here returns to the more paranormal and supernatural elements of this series to bring us his latest tale. The ongoing battle between Parker and those who believe themselves to be Fallen Angels takes a much more deadly turn as evidence begins to mount towards the fact that Parker's name itself may just be on the list. This leads to a dark series of events where Charlie quickly discovers that he is no longer sure any more who he can and can't trust! The Jewish Rabbi, Epstein, once more makes an appearance as does the nefarious Collector, who has dogged Charlie Parker's trail several times before in the past, in what ends up being a tense and very brooding tale that adds much to what has gone before and even gives us, finally, some important answers!
I really enjoyed this and thought it one of Connolly's best to date! It certainly spells good for the future - adding some very important elements to the ongoing storyline that flows through all this series and building on the premise already established that Parker is merely being used as a pawn in a very important game......one that could determine the fate of all mankind.
I especially love that, by now, the whole question of whether or not this is all in Parker's head has been dropped and it now becomes apparent that, whatever is going on, it is something strange indeed!
Fans of Connolly will get much from this I think, though if you have not read any of the previous novels this probably isn't the one to start you off! As you can tell, I was very impressed and can't wait for the next installment....