Title: Every Dead Thing (Charlie Parker #1)
Author: John Connolly
Review: A good writer will improve with each successive book, and that is the case with John Connolly’s debut novel. I am glad I read book 11 first, otherwise I might have passed on what became a fantastic series. While the writing was good, a lot of the plot points and general structure screamed first novel.
It was as if the author had three distinctive stories he wanted to tell, but couldn’t get any one of them to last over 200 pages. So instead of reworking it he just told all three over the course of almost 500 pages; just loosely tying them together with stretched plot segues. We start off with a missing girl with loose mob ties which morph into a serial killer of children story. So far I was still okay with this, but then suddenly it resolves at page 200. This would have been okay except we still had 300 pages to go. Then we suddenly end up across the country in New Orleans with a drug gangland war story overlaid with yet another serial killer. Then we end up with revenge, bring the justice, go team go story.
Of course the killers were super intelligent and extra super duper violent and depraved killers. Why kill someone when you can drug them, skin them alive, and then pose them in obscure 16th century medical anatomy text poses. Cause that stuff happens all the time. Then the big climax involved a resolution as clichéd as saying the butler did it.
I would hazard a guess if the author could go back and rewrite this he would definitely break it up into two solid books. In the end the book is still worth reading for the character back story and development. I learned a lot about the main characters which are assumed you just know by book 11, so definitely read it, but keep in mind that it does get better; much, much better.
Thanks T Stevens for this review.
Publisher: Published July 1st 2000 by Pocket(first published 1999)
Quick Review: 2 ½ Stars out of 5.
Where I got the book: The publisher graciously sent me the entire backlist for this author; and I am going to work my through them all.
Why Did I read this Book: Sent by the publisher for review.
Synopsis: These days, it seems as if any book featuring a serial killer is inevitably compared to Thomas Harris's Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs. Indeed, this is exactly what has happened to John Connolly's Every Dead Thing. Kirkus Reviews says, "Irish journalist Connolly's first novel is an ambitious, grisly, monstrously overextended foray...deep into Hannibal Lecter territory." Publishing News ran an article called "In the Steps of Hannibal..." subtitled, "Lecter, that is." Although meant as compliments, I think comments like these unjustly pigeonhole this riveting novel. While Connolly certainly owes something to Harris, he also owes a considerable debt to other genre authors. Connolly adopts tropes and techniques from these authors, successfully blending these elements to create a unique, satisfying tale of his own.
Several months prior to the main action of Every Dead Thing, NYPD Detective Charlie "Bird" Parker makes a decision that will haunt him for the rest of his life. Fresh from an argument with his wife, Susan, he storms out of the house and heads for a local bar, determined to tie one on. Returning home several hours later, Parker makes a grisly discovery — Susan and his three-year-old daughter Jennifer have been murdered, their faces removed, their mutilated bodies arranged in a position that Parker later discovers is meant to mimic Estienne's Pieta. Grief stricken, Parker vows vengeance on their killer.
Parker leaves the force to investigate the murders full time. Months later, however, he is no closer to solving the crime. In fact,the only clue he has to the killer's identity is one provided by Tante Marie Aguillard, a New Orleans mystic who tells him the killer, whom she calls the Traveling Man, has struck before, and has buried a previous victim in the bayou near her home. Parker isn't quite sure why he believes her, but is certain she's telling the truth.
The frustrated Parker is thus almost grateful for the distraction provided by a missing person's case fed to him by old police friend Walter Cole. Parker's search for Catherine Demeter, the missing girlfriend of a wealthy Manhattan socialite, leads him to the ironically named small town of Haven, Virginia, where his outsider status and insistent questions open wounds long thought closed. Parker solves the case, but only at the cost of great damage to his person and his psyche. Unknown to him at the time, however, he indirectly moves closer to his ultimate goal — although the connections between the two cases are tenuous, this seemingly unrelated investigation is only the beginning of a tortuous chain of events that will eventually lead him to the Traveling Man. Their final, brutal confrontation is surprising and terrifying — Connolly keeps readers guessing until the very end, stretching nerves to their breaking point.
The first half of the novel evokes both Ross MacDonald and Andrew Vachss, as Parker uncovers secrets that lead to the discovery of a child killer thought dead for over three decades. The second half strays into territory mined successfully by James Lee Burke, as Parker travels to New Orleans for his final confrontation with the Traveling Man. Connolly pays homage to the genre in other ways as well. In the hard-boiled tradition, Parker is sullen, often depressed, but, even so, is always ready with a witty comeback. In a nod to Robert B. Parker, and maybe to Joe Lansdale, Parker's current flame is a criminal psychologist, his closest allies two tough, black gay men.
Connolly even goes so far as to name certain characters after genre authors. Of course, there's Charlie Parker, perhaps named for Robert B. Parker or Richard Stark's famous thief. There's also police officer Gerald Kersh, FBI agents Woolrich and Ross, and supporting characters Emo Ellison, Evan Baines, and Gunther Bloch. Found at Goodreads.
Author Biography: 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 is based in Dublin but divides his time between his native city and the United States.