It has taken four attempts, but now I am convinced that John Connolly is the real thing, a writer of extraordinary talent and one who will have you humming the tunes to his metaphysical imagery. Well, almost. This is the fourth in the Charlie `Bird' Parker series (following Every Dead Thing, Dark Hollow and The Killing Kind) and he just gets better and better with each offering, so much so that I have elevated Connolly to one of my most enjoyable authors in my own little library of personal favourites.
If only there wasn't so much killing! Just as in the three previous outings, we have central character and private investigator Parker, his wonderful back-up crew Louis and Angel, and his girlfriend Rachel. Apart from them, almost everyone else dies - and there are a lot of others! Parker's not very often directly responsible, but as seems to be the trend in this series, death follows him around every single corner and although the majority of the victims are baddies, I am beginning to find this widespread carnage just a little wearisome. But there are so many pleasures within the pages of this book that many readers won't mind the violence at all, for Connolly's writing is for the most part wonderfully stylish, his sense of imagery masterful and his research into his given subjects - be they people, locations or wildlife - is simply awesome.
This is Connolly's tightest and most coherent novel yet, with an unwavering plot-line that for once does not include any mafia figures - possibly because he killed them all off in the previous three novels, I guess. We learn, at last, of the makings of Louis and Angel many years before, the better to understand what makes them who they are today. Bird has temporarily moved into new territory in the shape of South Carolina, and initially aims to help out an old lawyer buddy who is representing a young black man accused of murdering the attractive daughter of a very wealthy white local tycoon, in an environment that even today makes it very difficult for black people to obtain legal justice in a highly prejudiced society which still harbours associations with the Ku Klux Klan. It's just the tip of the iceberg however, because there's bad blood running between the families of both the victim and the accused that dates back generations, and eventually Bird finds that there are some very dark cover-ups, some in the present and some in the past, that he needs to unearth before he can get to the root of what's going on. To add a little spice to the mix, it emerges that the Reverend Faulkner is still alive and able to exert deadly influence even from his prison cell, an elderly but highly evil man who some of us might have thought had died at the end of The Killing Kind but who has returned to seek vengeance on Bird for his sins.
One of the trademarks of the Bird series has been his occasional and usually involuntary ability to communicate with the dead. This theme is taken to a deeper level in The White Road, and to an extent it serves to explain the reasons for what has gone on before, in Maine and in New Orleans, and although there are thankfully far fewer `please buy my previous book' references in the story this time, the subtlety of their mentionings serves to better link the four tales together. I found this a most welcome change. What I don't want Connolly to change though is his prose, which enables him to stand tall among his peers, and if I may I would like to quote from this novel just so that the unfamiliar can sample a taste of this very creative author's imagination:-
"Around the trunk, a vine weaves. Its leaves are broad, and from each node springs a cluster of small green flowers. The flowers smell as if they are decomposing, festering, and in daylight they are black with flies drawn by the stench. This is Smilax herbacea, the carrion flower. There is not another one like it for a hundred miles in any direction. Like the black oak itself, it is alone of its kind. Here, in Ada's Field, the two entities co-exist, parasite and saprophyte: the one fuelled by the lifeblood of the tree, the other drawing its existence from the lost and the dead.
"And the song the wind sings in its branches is one of misery and regret, of pain and passing. It calls over untilled fields and one-room shacks, across acres of corn and mists of cotton. It calls to the living and the dead, and old ghosts linger in its shade.
"Now there are lights on the horizon and cars on the road. It is July 17, 1964 and they are coming. They are coming to see the burning man."
If you enjoy classical writing successfully married to a contemporary style, then you will love The White Road and its predecessors in the Bird Series. Absolutely recommended.
on 23 February 2002
This is the best of the four. Every Dead Thing was a good read, but overcomplicated with too many characters and plots. Dark Hollow was much better. ANd even that warranted five stars. Then came The Killing Kind which was stupendously excellent. The best thriller of 2001. Even better than Dark Hollow. But now comes The White Road. And it's even better.
John Connolly's prose is simply wonderful. It is superbly lyrical, and his descriptions are superbs. I was in awe when he described a world as being "painted on glass". He has many sentences like that, which stop you in your tracks and make you realise how truly [darkly] beautiful his writing is.
Charlie Parker is back, and fighting for his life, and taht of his wife. the demonic preacher Faulkner is out for revenge, at the same as Parker is investigating the rape of the young daughter of the wealthy Earl Larousse. Accused is her black boyfriend, Atys Jones. But deep in the swamps something lurks...something connected to a long ago crime, and it wants vengeance...
This is a stunning novel. The darkness of it is haunting, and its complexity astounding, but JOhn COnnolly manages to tell you the tale in an easy to undderstand way.
It is truly chilling. The way Connolly blends subtle elements of horror in with a crime novel is awe-inspiring. And with this book he has created his most dark plot yet, yet it seems to contain a tiny snub of light shining through at points. At times the darkness becomes too much, and the light disappears as if gone forever, but at others, it reappears, burning brightly anew, and you can hold out some hope for Charlie Parker and his quest.
I cannot praise this novel highly enough. The resolution, and the way in which it is all brough together is brilliant, and the final solution shocking.
Connolly, with this book and the last created possibly the most chilling villain in the religious fanatic Reverend Aaron Faulkner, and in this book he is even more chilling than before. He simply oozes evil. This time, he is out to get Parker, and he is going to use killer Cyrus Nairn, recently released from the wing of his prison, to execute that revenge. It is a truly chilling book, with a wonderful plot, and a colourful cast of characters, including Angel and Louis, who are back in full force. This time we learn a little about why they are who they are.
From the excellent prologue to the epilogue this book is a sucess on every level. Connolly just gets better and better. If you haven't read him yet, you're missing out.
on 18 April 2002
If you enjoyed EVERY DEAD THING, DARK HOLLOW, and THE KILLING KIND, then you’re going to love John Connolly’s newest Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker novel, THE WHITE ROAD. It begins a few months following where THE KILLING KIND left off. Charlie and a pregnant, Rachel, are still together, living in a new home and contemplating the birth of their child. The Reverend Aaron Faulkner is soon to be tried for the murders of his congregation, as well as the deaths of several other people. When Charlie gets a phone call from an old friend, Elliot Norton, who’s now a lawyer in South Carolina and is representing a black man who has been wrongfully accused of murdering his white girlfriend, he finds himself hesitant on leaving Rachel alone while he goes to help. The word is that there isn’t enough evidence to convict Faulkner and that he may be released from prison in the immediate future. If so, neither Charlie nor Rachel will be safe. The good reverend believes in payback, and he intends to achieve revenge for the death of his murderous son and daughter by having the detective and his woman killed in the most vicious manner. Still, Charlie can’t ignore the plea for help from his friend in South Carolina. Arranging for Rachel to be watched, he flies down to the southern state and step into a boiling caldron filled with hate, racism, death, the Dixie Mafia, the Klan, and an evil force that wants retribution against him for the deaths of its many followers. As Charlie puts his life on the line by investigating the murder of Marianne Larousse and the long, dark history that has existed between her wealthy family and the family of her boyfriend, Atys Jones, he sets in motion a series of events that will lead to a blood bath on the grandest scale. Even Louis and Angel may not be good enough to save Charlie this time around, or rescue Rachel from the evil that’s stalking her back in Maine. To save the woman he loves, himself, and to right a terrible wrong, Charlie will have to travel the White Road and face the entity that waits for him at the end of it. No one will walk away unscathed. THE WHITE ROAD is a winner in every sense of the word. It’s written with such poetry, such honesty and truth to character, that I’m left in awe of Mr. Connolly’s craftsmanship as an author. As only the Irish can, he writes with an elegance of style that’s simply a pleasure to read. I even find myself reading aloud at times, soaking in the beauty of his words and sentences that so clearly bring to life the characters of his books. Charlie Parker is now ready to start over with Rachel and his unborn child, putting the past behind him, hoping that the spirits will leave him and his family alone. Louis and Angel are on a quest for vengeance. Louis is determined to kill the men who destroyed his family so many years ago in Georgia, while Angel still has to come to grips with the torture he experienced at the hands of Aaron Faulkner’s son, Mr. Pudd. Angel understands that no one is safe unless the Reverend Faulkner is finally put down like the mad dog he is, and he’s willing to do it, if Charlie won’t. Also, except for maybe Thomas Harris, no other author is able to capture the pure essence of evil that lurks deep within the darkness of humanity as well as John Connolly does. The characters of Cyrus Nairn and Mr. Kittim will cause goose bumps to rise on your arms, and the spirit of Mr. Pudd and his recluse spiders are always in the background. Like Mr. Connolly’s three previous novels, this one is a journey into the dark night of the soul. It will have you questioning the way we treat others who are different; yet, at the same time, it will also show the goodness in people who are willing to stand up and fight the evil that seeks to destroy us. As I understand it, THE WHITE ROAD will be the last Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker novel for the next year or so. Mr. Connolly wants to do one or two stand-alone novels before continuing with the series that is quickly making him a household name around the world. Read THE WHITE ROAD, savor its sharp twists and turns, its edge-of-your-seat suspense, its carefully crafted multi-story lines, its in-depth characters; then, cross your fingers and pray that John Connolly will show mercy on his fans and not let us wait too long before Charlie Parker once again returns. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!
on 24 March 2002
I love this series!! And after devouring last year's The Killing Kind, I couldn't wait to read more Charlie Parker. I was not disapointed.
Charlie is asked to come to South Carolina to help an old friend with a case. The old friend being a lawyer, defending a young black man charged with murder.
The book brings the past into the present, tying threads of various lives together through a common thread revolving around the racism of the old south. As usual, things seem to escalate quickly around Charlie. To add to the tornado of events is a figure from the past looming in the background.
Angel,Louis,and Rachel are all along for this ride. And What a ride it is! I finished it in one sitting. Fast pacing and wonderful characters and an uncanny insight into human nature help make this a terrific book.
Dublin born and bred novelist John Connolly is Irish to the core - a bit fey, a tad dark, and extremely gifted. His initial offering "Every Dead Thing" (1999) won the Shamus Award for the best first novel, and his third "The Killing Kind" garnered raves. So will "The White Road."
According to Mr. Connolly his recurring protagonist Detective Charlie "Bird" Parker may have a good bit of the author in him. This is "probably typical of a lot of novelists who choose to write in the first person," he said. "We tend to imbue our lead character with many of our own qualities, although we only admit to the good ones."
Whatever the case and wherever Parker came from he's a standout. "....Parker is a flawed man," Mr. Connolly continues. "He is capable of violence, and is often tempted by the possibility that he can turn his back on a case, if he chooses, and make his own life a little easier. He is stopped by his own guilt, his own desire to be a better man, and by visions of the lost."
Surely that's an apt description of Parker in this tale. A southern millionaire's daughter is raped and sadistically murdered. She is found in a south Carolina swamp; her black boyfriend is arrested and a trial date is set. Race is a salient issue in "The White Road"; hatreds never buried seek reprisal.
Only Parker would tackle a case such as this. Little does he know that he not only endangers himself but also the lives of his lover and his unborn child.
John Connolly skillfully probes the American psyche with the clear eyed view of an outsider, while he spins an intriguing story that will keep most of us burning the midnight oil.
Isn't it great when you get lent a book that you love, only to find there are loads more in the series already published. That's what happened to me with John Connolly when I borrowed 'Every Dead Thing'. Through the next three books I've loved and lost and lost... and lost again with Charlie Parker, surely the most unfortunate character in fiction (I wouldn't be his nextdoor neighbour for quids), and enjoyed every minute. If I had any quibbles with the series so far it would be the fact that every single character has a smart-arsed comment ready for Charlie as if the writers from Friends are suddenly scripting every toothless hillbilly in America. Also it seems that John Connolly sometimes tries a bit TOO hard for authenticity - going to such pains to describe a street corner or coffee shop that it's obvious he's visited the place for research (he sat down on the green park bench on the corner of Headway and Main, you know the one by O'Dwyers bar with the gum under the back left corner and the grafitti that says 'Dwayne luvs Lurlene' and is still a little charred from the time Old Gerard set fire to the trash can back in '74 - sorry taking the mick a bit but you get the idea)
The White Road carries some of the themes and the baddies (the baddies are one of the best things about these books - often a bit campy and over the top, but this just adds to the creepy factor) from the previous installment, but mostly deals with the repercussions of decades feuding between two families, one wealthy land and formerly slave owners, the other the decendents of the slaves they once owned. Great stuff, real tension and a tangled plot that unravels itself to a beautifully cordite-scented bitter-sweet end.
If you're already a fan it's unlikely that you'll need much persuasion to buy this book. If you're new to Charlie Parker's weird, dreamy ultra-violent world, go back to 'Every Dead Thing' and work your way through the series to this book. You've got a treat coming, and I envy you.
on 11 July 2002
Every Dead Thing...Good
Dark Hollow...VERY good
The Killing Kind...Truly Excellent
The White Road...Astounding
Quite simply, that is how you sum up Connolly's writing career so far. he has reached, with this fourth novel, the pinnacle of "astounding". His books continue to get better and better every single year.
"The White Road" is a brilliant book. It takes Charlie Parker into his darkest adventure yet, and right out the other side into the light. It's chilling, haunting, dark, slightly scary, atmospheric, and is chock full of terrifying villains...from thee fanatical Reverend Faulkner to the deformed Cyrus Nairn, who seems to live only to kill.
The plot is brilliant...the two strands weave slowly intogether, and at the end it seems strange that they were ever apart. The setting is also great...the resolution is brilliant, and the showdown exciting and tense. The suspense builds out of nowhere.
The quality of the writing is first class...he is probably the best prose stylist currently at work in this (possibly any genre) lyrical and beautiful, the writing is at times reminiscent of poetry.
Great characters populate the novel. There are the likeable...Charlie Parker, Rachel Woolfe, and Angel and Louis. In this book we see more of them, getting further down into what makes them them, yet when we think about it, we really haven't seen anything much at all. Just a hint of a reason.
His novels are essentially battles between flawed good, and immensely potent evil. They show brilliantly that if it fights hard enough, good can win.
But not without a price.
on 16 January 2015
Just recently discovered this series of novels and I am enjoying them immensely. They're all well researched supernatural thriller page-turners with a host of unique characters - where else would you find an exquisitley dressed gay black hitman who loves country and western music in a long term relationship with a scruffy white burglar? And they're the good guys!
on 21 March 2002
What can be said about this book, or indeed about the author? This book, the 4th in the Charlie "Bird" Parker is the best book I have read since I read The Killing Kind and Dark Hollow (back to back!) I couldn't put the book down (a bad thing when at work), everything went on hold as I turned page after page. The story? A rollercoaster ride in the typical John Connolly trend, switching from things that happened years before to the present day. Angel and Louis are there, although they don't seem as involved in this one as before, but we do learn more about their past. And then there is Rev. Aaron Faulkner...imprisoned at the end of the last one, now he has been released on bail, the one thing on his mind is retribution, but will he get it?...
on 26 March 2003
i read this book ages ago in hard back, because i just had to have john connolly's newest addition to the charlie parker series. connolly invites the reader into the books pages by magical penmanship, fair enough alot of people die in connollys books, but good how he writes is brilliant. i dont know connolly personally, i have though aquired a autograph for the sleave of the white road, im not paid to wirte this review, simply one who buys will not be disappointed, this is a new bred of writing and cant wait for more.