by John Connolly
Published by Hodder & Stoughton, 2010
With The Whisperers John Connolly continues the work he started 12 years earlier in Every Dead Thing to blur the boundaries between the crime novel and the horror novel. He has achieved that blend brilliantly in what may well be his most satisfying novel so far.
We start in the war-zone of Iraq and in particular, a museum vault, within which a treasure hoard is hidden, including one item more important but also potentially more dangerous than all the rest.
Charlie Parker, with his private investigators license recently reinstated after some “trouble” (see previous books in the series) is hired to investigate the death of a soldier. He soon finds out that this death is also linked with the deaths of several other recently returned Iraq veterans. Initially dismissed as a result of post traumatic stress, Parker begins to uncover a much deeper and darker mystery involving that mysterious box.
John Connolly’s tales are always populated with some marvellous characters but here he excels himself with a huge range of interesting, diverse and downright nasty individuals. All are drawn in the same pen picture style that Stephen King uses so well are all are immediately brought to life through their actions and dialogue. So we meet Mexican drug lords, less than honest policeman, young bloods trying to make their mark and of course the soldiers and their families. Beyond these players, however, are a whole range of much darker characters. Herod, a deeply nasty individual tortured by illness and demons. The Collector, again a character from previous books, but this time given more life as he continues his mission to collect souls. And then there is The Captain, the thing behind the glass, everyone’s nightmare realised.
These final characters and the underlying premise of the book inject a huge dose of supernatural adrenalin into the story which lifts it way beyond the norm. Those who have read Connolly’s work in the past will already know that Parker is a tortured individual on a seemingly one way road to oblivion. His partners, the excellent Louis and Angel are always there to help with the physical side of things but it is in the deeper darker realm that Parker meets his greatest tests and there he is alone.
Of course, the book also carries a powerful message, not so much anti-war but very much pro-war veteran. Much of the detail in the book about the horrendous way that returning vets are treated is based on real life and is something we should all be ashamed of.
John Connolly continues to travel his fairly unique journey through the boundaries of genre fiction. Every Charlie Parker book builds on the previous to provide a genuinely unsettling mythos. Just real enough to be believable, just unreal enough to be terrifying, it’s a journey which seems destined to end in tragedy for Parker but it’s all the more compelling for it.
If you haven’t read his previous Parker books then you may miss some of the subtle nuances on show here but for fans of the series this is fantastic, not merely recommended reading this should be compulsory.
Rating 5 out of 5