on 17 September 2012
Mr Connolly is on top form again with this story of something lost and sought in the deep forests of Maine. Although his stories are never a riot of laughs, this one in particular breathes an air of foreboding almost from the start and the sense of menace only grows. It's difficult to describe the plot without spoilers but some characters we've met before reappear (and I don't just mean Angel and Louis although they do) including one we thought was dead and the forest is almost a character in its own right. We also get a sense that Charlie and his friends are beginning to age.
My only complaint is that we are still no nearer to finding out what Charlie Parker *is* even if we find out what he is not.
on 30 August 2012
The story begins when Marielle Vetters and Ernie Scollay seek Charlie's advice. On his deathbed Marielle's father told her and her brother the story about how he and his friend Harlan, Ernie's deceased brother, discovered a plane that had crashed deep in the Maine woods. They had taken money they had found in that plane and they tell Charlie about papers and a list with names the men had found.
At the same time a woman who hasn't done a lot of good in her life seeks redemption by sending a list of names to an old acquaintance of Charlie. A list some dangerous people also want to get their hands on.
Before Charlie knows it he's deep in trouble, but this time he's not trusted by old allies anymore as they are questioning his motives and his very nature.
Also, like Connolly mentioned before, an old adversary of Charlie resurfaces again.
The Wrath of Angels is mostly about Charlie Parker as things get very personal for him and as expected he makes that call to some special gentlemen from New York...
The Wrath of Angels is a very dark tale from the masterfully skilled pen of John Connolly, with villains that are as colourful as they are malicious. Connolly's descriptions of characters and surroundings alike make the stories literally come to life.
As always it's a pleasure to lose onself in Connolly's tight and enthralling writing and there is a terrible sense of unease and dread throughout the whole narration. You can almost feel the darkness and damp in the deepest darkest woods reaching out for you. Halfway throug the story I was beginning to fear Connolly might have done the unspeakable thing...But you'll have to read for yourselves to find out more!
Definitely one of the must read thrillers of this year!
on 3 September 2012
If you are a fan of the Charlie Parker series, you'll love this one. A lot of the old "favourites" are here - the collector, Epstein, Louis and Angel, Brightwell. And all the John Connolly trademarks are there - the excellent characters, the creepy plot, the battle of good versus evil (even though the distinction is sometimes a bit blurred) and the humour. I started reading as soon as it was available on my Kindle and could barely put it down until I'd finished it. There's a bit less violence than normal - the characters are growing older - but the suspense remains. This is a great "supernatural" mystery, well-told and well-written.The setting of the book - the dense Maine woods - adds to the atmosphere and the feeling of menace and evil.
If you're new to Charlie Parker and John Connolly I urge you to buy the book anyway. You'll still enjoy it even if some of Charlie Parker's back-story (in particular his friendship with Angel and Louis, and his more troubled relationships with Epstein and the Collector)won't be clear to you. But you will enjoy it so much you will set out to read the previous 10 Charlie Parker stories.
If you go down to the woods today you're sure of a big, and in true John Connolly fashion, quite nasty surprise in this the eleventh, in the Charlie Parker series. Fear not if this is your first step into the dark, supernatural tinged tales from the pen of Mr Connolly as there is just the right amount of back story to bring you right up to speed as to why everyone behaves in the way that they do, and the numerous, and at times more than a bit scary skeletons that reside in Parker's closet which delight in coming back to bite him on the derriere. If you're a seasoned fan of the unholy trinity of Charlie, Louis and Angel step right in and prepare to be entertained- this is a corker with more than a few familiar faces along the way...
Despite my more than a bit flippant intro to my review this is indeed one of the darkest tales yet featuring Charlie Parker and there is a suffocating miasma of evil throughout the whole affair with most characters being touched in some way by this atmosphere of death and misery. From the opening scene of a dying old man's confession of a past sin to a sinister path of discovery towards a hidden list of doomed souls, Connolly weaves a convoluted tale that is murderous, tangential and twisting hither and thither with all the main protagonists being expertly drawn together for a bloody denouement. As I alluded to earlier, the recurring characters all have a part to play and with the reappearance of the wonderfully sinister Kushiel (or `The Collector') and with a couple of other nasty surprises, there is more than enough to keep Parker on the back foot throughout the novel as they close in for different reasons to the acquisition of the list, languishing in the wrecked fuselage of a crashed plane in the backwoods of Maine. As regular readers of Connolly know, there is a strict adherence in his writing that no-one can really be perceived as 'good'( and spookily in this tale not even children as one character more than proves)- there is an element of badness within all the main characters with strikingly different reasons for the course of their actions and how this 'badness' manifests itself in their own tarnished views of the world. There is always a balance between depraved cruelty and loving heroism and this is what sets Connolly apart from just being a mainstream crime writer as his books always give the reader something more to think about on the human condition, as well as his ability to construct a good yarn...
There is a carefully used quote at the outset of the book from artist Andrew Wyeth that says "I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape- the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show" and what was particularly striking in this novel was Connolly's adherence to the naturalistic writing style prevalent in the formative period of American fiction in his depiction and realisation of the potency of the natural environment within this tale. The natural setting of the woods is instrumental to the thrust of the plot and his perfectly rendered descriptions of the beauty but inherent malevolence of the natural world are perfectly realised. Skilfully interweaving folkloric tales into the plot, the woods and their surrounds become like another character in the book and influence greatly the actions of the human characters within its confines as it seeks to conceal the evidence of evil that the protagonists are seeking with a grail-like intensity...
But even within the darkness of the plot there are elements of humour particularly in the interplay of Charlie, Louis and Angel on a particularly eventful evening babysitting Parker's daughter Sam and in the description of the most depressing `titty bar'on the planet to name but two, and these interludes of playful joshing or pure wit do much to lighten the sinister atmosphere that prevails within the rest of the novel.
All in all another great read in an always entertaining, yet wonderfully disturbing series that deviates enough from being strictly crime writing to incorporate moments of pure horror but beautifully balanced with a literary, naturalistic and philosophical bent- what more could any reader ask for?
on 4 October 2012
the one major flaw in all of connolly's books is that they are not long enough, and yet as novels they have the pace and depth of detail that requires a longer treatment. i assume this is his publisher's doing and yet i feel that in the wrath of angels it seriously cripples and malforms the book. as usual he gives interesting back stories to all his characters but this merely takes up time in what might have been better served furthering the plot. for yet again connolly has created superbly baroque villians and, quite simply, we want to see more of them. instead he intersperses scenes that are truly gripping with ones of the utmost banality that leave the reader feeling as if they have been worked up only to be slapped in the face with a wet fish. and i also feel that trying to humanise or at least rationalise the story of the collector was misjudged, and that the ending was hurried and anti-climactic. the novel does create a shuddering, halting, compromised sense of build up but this is weakened again and again by a concentration on minor characters and their doings. there is little sense of parker in this book and he seems almost absent from the story, as do angel and louis. this lack of focus contributes to the overall sense of aimlessness and meandering that characterises the work, instead of the strong and individual flavour that each parker novel usually has. connolly is superb at creating tension and expectation, yet the ending is rushed and there is a sense of 'is that it?'- the wet-fish effect again. i suspect connolly is rather bored by the parker series now but the money he (and his publishers) can make from stringing out the series ad infinitum is too tempting to resist. although he can't write a bad book, this one is a disappointment. of course i will still read the next one, and the one after...
on 15 September 2012
Wow! This was brilliant. I was a little disappointed by the lacklustre previous novel in the Charlie Parker series, so although I HAD to buy this, I did so with a few qualms and not a little trepidation.
I needn't have worried. This is Connolly back to his effortless best, a dark thriller elegantly laced with the supernatural. It's beautifully written: many times I had to stop and re-read a sentence to appreciate the subtle, clever turn of phrase. I wish I had made a note of the page numbers so that I could have quoted some here, but I was too engrossed in the story to do anything so practical.
The story itself is gripping and well-paced, with popular characters such as Louis and Angel finding a natural place in the events as they unfold, rather than feeling shoe-horned in as they have tended to in recent years. Parker himself is as utterly fascinating as ever, delineated in the first-person narrative with casual skill and deftness.
I loved the locale. The northern woods with their abandoned fort, crashed plane and chilling (Japan horror-inspired?) little girl ghost are imbued with a compelling coldness and foreboding. It's gorgeously evocative.
Brilliant, brilliant work, Connolly. This 400+ page novel felt too short even though I rationed myself and eked it out over almost a week.
on 23 September 2012
Where the previous Charlie Parker mystery felt like a story to which Parker himself took a relatively minor role, The Wrath of Angels is a slice of Parker to which a story has been appended. It's a rewarding read if you've been following these novels, but too problematically entrenched in the mythos that's built up around Parker for the newbie. As I've been following the novels for years though, I'm well rewarded. As ever, Connolly holds back from offering conclusive revelations, but he enriches his own world of fallen angels and those who oppose them deeply with this novel. As far as the plot goes... there's a long crashed plane somewhere in the Maine woods, and a list of names on board that could prove influential in the secret war that Parker has found himself a part of. He has to find it. Story done.
It's the solidifying of the supernatural elements that really delivers in this book. We're a long way from the early instalments, when it was unclear whether the supernatural was a real presence in Parker's life or just his own imaginings, yet for all its epic implications the story stays grounded in little lives and personal stories. Beautifully written, as I've long since come to expect from Connolly, and a milestone in the arc plot that has slowly developed over the years.
on 18 January 2013
Every time I sit down to start a new Charlie Parker novel I worry in case it isn't as good as the last; and every time they are just as good. Each book is different from the previous one in in just about every way except the three main characters, Charlie, Louis and Angel, and Charlie's quest to find out why such strange things happen to him.
If you want to read these novels I would suggest going back to the first one. I started with 'Dark Hollow' and was so completely drawn in that I went back to 'Every Dead Thing'. I can't wait for each new episode in Charlie's life and I hope he finishes the series before I die or else I'll just have to haunt John Connolly until he tells me what the finale entails. :o)
Charlie Parker is getting older. No doubt about it. Gone is the crazy, out of control, revenge fuelled PI, reeling from the murder of his wife and daughter. In The Wrath of Angels we see an almost mellow, somewhat subdued man who talks first and extracts revenge second. It's true to say what Parker has lost in terms of craziness and self hatred he has gained in terms of intelligence and wisdom. Connolly has altered the whole feel of his latest Charlie Parker novel. Less action and violence, though the violence is brutal and sadistic when it does arrive, more dialogue and a relaxed vibe, unknow in the earlier books. I am delighted to say though that the magnificent duo, Louis and Angel, make a return and Connolly has left them more or less unchanged for which I'm grateful.
The basic plot involves a list names and a satchel full of money buried away inside an airplane which has mysteriously crashed and now lies half swallowed in deep, unchartered woodlands. The assumption is that the list contains the names of souls contracted out to the devil (I'm not telling you whether they are or not, I hate it when reviewers give the plot away) and from that point Connolly introduces you to a raft of characters, human, demonic and some I'm still unsure about, as they battle one another to find and retrieve the list.
If you've read the previous novels in this series then you'll remember "Brightwell and the Believers"; happy to say that they make a return in what must be one of the creepiest sub-plots in fiction.
Connolly has become the master of surreal, hard boiled mystery and The Wrath of Angels is a masterclass in how to ramp up psychological tension and he doesn't hold back. The plot features demons wrapped in human skin, fallen Angels, black and twisted souls, heaven and hell, reincarnation, God, the Devil, possession and it goes on and on. Finished the book in a day, it's an absolute page turner and I enjoyed every word.
It's true to say that you'll get into the story if you haven't read the other ten books in the Charlie Parker series but you're going to find gaps when old characters return, their history isn't always too well revealed and neither is Parker's past which remains crucial to the plot and explains his relationship with Louis and Angel.
Just as an afterthought, because there's now another long wait before the next John Connolly novel, if you enjoy this type of hard hitting, surreal mystery then you might want to try Adam Nevill. He only has four books published under his own name, Banquet for the Damned was his first and is now out of print and can be difficult to find, Apartment 16 and The Ritual are really rather good.
on 26 June 2016
This is the 11th in the Charlie Parker series, and probably the best. Connolly warns us that this book brings in elements of the supernatural more evidently and obviously than earlier novels. And for me that is fine, and actually what makes the book so compelling. It is described as "a sequel of sorts" to The Black Angel. Yes, I can see that - though to be honest, I do think these books must be read in order. So if this is likely to be your first encounter with Parker - stop! Go back and read Every Dead Thing first! And work your way through the others - it really is worth it.