Hodder, out now
The Maine community of Prosperous will go to any lengths to keep their secrets – but they may have tangled with the wrong person when Charlie Parker decides to investigate the disappearance of a young woman…
In many ways this is a great jumping on point for readers who have been wondering what all the fuss John Connolly’s Charlie Parker books is about. It’s one of the more linear straightforward plots – in fact, in its early sections, it could easily be a Lee Child Jack Reacher story (and that’s not a negative; I love the Reacher books) – as Parker starts to delve beneath the apparently prosperous surface of Prosperous. However, whereas in a Reacher tale, the townsfolk would be hiding some illicit criminal activity, here it’s something far more pervading and evil – a hungry god who somehow ensures that if its demands are met, the people succeed. This Faustian pact has gone on for centuries, although there are those who are questioning it within the town. (That’s not a spoiler; it’s pretty clear up front what is going on.)
Long-term Connolly fans may be wondering what’s happened to his colleagues Angel and Louis in this first section; worry not – they more than come into their own in the second part of the book as they try to find out who is responsible for a serious attack on a friend of theirs. This part also serves to explain many hanging threads from the earlier books, in particular why Charlie Parker has been allowed to live for so long when he has made so many enemies on both sides of the law and how anything happening to him or those around him affects the equilibrium of the world. Many familiar faces reappear and the relationship between them is explained clearly enough for newcomers to understand the powers involved (and whence those powers derive).
The metaphysical aspects of Connolly’s writing come to the fore periodically, but The Wolf in Winter also contains some of his most impassioned prose about life in the real world. Castigating the way in which many people tend to define homeless people purely by their domiciliary status, he writes from their perspective and in so doing gives us a very different view. There’s one scene where a woman who’s been living on the streets for many years is treated like a lady for the first time in decades which will stay with me for a long time.
There’s a distinct feel of “end of Act” about this book for those of us who have followed Parker’s chequered career – many characters, including the detective, have to make decisions and compromises with which they might not be comfortable, and things will definitely never be the same for any of them. Roll on the next book – soon please!
Verdict: One of the best of an always riveting and thought-provoking series. 9/10