A Book of Bones, by John Connolly.
In the twenty years since his first book was published, John Connolly has perfected the art of supernatural thriller writing – it is an incontrovertible fact that no-one does it better, including the master himself, Stephen King: then why have his last titles not lived up to the quality of those before them?
They are as beautifully – even lyrically – written as every Charlie Parker story always is; assassins extraordinaire Louis and Angel still loom large, though Angel is suffering grievous side-effects from the Chemotherapy treatment for bowel cancer; FBI Special Agent Ross still retains Charlie for special missions pertaining to the supernatural, knowing that Charlie appears to have an entrée to worlds of which ordinary mortals should know nothing (in the interests of their sanity); so why has the air gone out of the balloon?
This story is a continuation of ‘The Woman in the Woods’, where Pallida Mors, a particularly bloodthirsty (and odiferous) murderer has strewn victims in a trail across the North-Eastern United States in her search for hidden maps at the behest of her Master, Quayle, a truly evil lawyer cursed with eternal life – unless he manages to assemble all the pages of a magic Atlas (truly!), which when complete, will destroy the world as we know it, and finally end his own benighted life.
I am the first to admit that my truncated version of events would not induce the Rational Reader to pick up this book, but all Charlie Parker fans will give RR the stink eye: no-one can carry off such wild plotting as successfully as John Connolly.
‘A Book of Bones’ is Part Two of the search for the missing pages, with the pursuit of Pallida and Quayle by Charlie, Louis and Angel; Louis is particularly keen to meet with Pallida again after she put two bullets in him at their last meeting: he thirsts for vengeance. Angel, is along for the ride, even though he shouldn’t be going anywhere, but where Louis goes, so does he. And the first third of the novel doesn’t disappoint: there are a series of bloodthirsty serial crimes to mystify merely mortal Northern English police; wonderfully descriptive accounts of ancient British history and beautifully etched characters who have the fatal misfortune to meet Pallida and Quayle, BUT. Thereafter, the action slows down and even stops completely under the weight of dense detail and digression. I don’t believe that Connolly has fallen in love with his own erudition, but many tangents a tough and taut thriller doth not make. (Work that one out if you can: this is why he’s the writer and I’m not!) Very disappointing. THREE STARS.