If you've never read a Charlie Parker novel, I urge you to quickly open up a search page for Amazon (or run to your fave bookstore, whichever is your preference) and begin reading. I read many books each year, but few stand out in my memory like the Parker novels.
That said, I must admit that the last one seemed a bit of departure to me, with its much broader scope and its heavy-duty philosophical and historical bent. I enjoyed it tremendously, but I enjoyed this one even more because it's much more like the earlier ones I loved so much.
We begin this book with Parker separated from Rachel and Sam, a separation that seems to be inching towards permanence, and one that causes Parker great pain but about which he feels relatively powerless, I think. What separates him from Rachel is something that he can't immediately control or maybe even fully understand because doing so would involve digging very deeply into his own psyche.
In this novel, Parker's forced to confront that psyche, the way his own decisions have led to his isolation from some of the people he loves best, from sanity, even. The ghosts of his dead first wife and daughter continue to haunt him, but his understanding of that haunting changes. I won't give away any major plot points here, but I will tell you that it's good to see Parker becoming more self-aware, not just in the sense that he knows he's flawed but in the sense that he has some control over how his experiences shape him and follow him into his future.
Angel and Louis show up, which is a good thing, as I like them both as characters. They're funny even in their cold-blooded murderous moments. But they're also human, and it's good to see them covering Parker's back as they always do.
The Collector returns, and I must admit to being enthralled by this character as well. He serves both as a catalyst for Parker's increased self-awareness and for Parker's self-doubts and even self-loathing. He also helps move the plot along in a logical and compelling way.
Other characters continue to guide the reader over complex psychological terrain. If you thought Louis and Angel were studies in contrasts and grey areas, wait until you encounter Merrick here. This man, a killer who carries with him the reek of the abattoir, has a moral code that makes it hard to consider him the bad guy that he is. So, too, the Collector. You want to run screaming in the opposite direction at the same time that you are thinking, "dammit, I kind of. . .GET where he's coming from."
The themes of child sexual abuse and adults' inability to confront the damage they inflict on children in order to serve their own twisted agendas are as compelling as always, especially when Mr. Connolly weaves in history and the backgrounds of his characters to make more powerful and intriguing connections.
I've been told that consistently rating Mr. Connolly's work with 5 stars may look as though I can't rate very objectively, but here's the thing: Mr. Connolly's writing, in particular the Parker series, is some of the best I've ever read, and so far there's been not one major misstep on the writer's part. I continue to enjoy reading about Charlie, laughing at his wit, learning more about his circle of friends and defenders, and witnessing his struggle to achieve some lasting level of happiness. Perhaps it's that last one most of all that always makes me wait with great anticipation for the next book in the series.