Investigator Charlie Parker’s pursuit of his nemesis peaks in this 17th installment of Connolly’s series, a seamless, expansive, and chilling blend of police procedural and gothic horror tale.
Parker returns to track an elusive murderer, a man named Quayle last seen in The Woman in the Woods (2018). The book begins with a scene in Tempe, Arizona. In a junkyard, Parker examines a female corpse that’s been stashed in a freezer. He thinks—and hopes—the body may be that of Pallida Mors, Quayle’s companion and a mass murderer Parker has relentlessly pursued. The corpse, alas, is a decoy planted to throw Parker off the scent. The gruesome, straightforward examination that yields this information is the epitome of a police procedural, in great contrast to intervening scenes with Quayle in London. These latter, which Connolly deftly integrates, take on a supernatural, ghostly quality as Connolly suggests Quayle is a force of evil who has lived for centuries. Quayle seeks possession of something called The Fractured Atlas, a “work that would…bring this world to an end.” Connolly freshens what could be another too-familiar doomsday tale with a series of distinctively written—and harrowing—gothic set pieces. Men at an archaeological dig in a place called Hexhamshire, in England, for example, observe dark, tuberous roots that make scratching sounds as they slither out of a well and gag one of the explorers to death. Meanwhile, in New York, Parker meets with two longtime cohorts, Louis and Angel, a pair of gay sometime criminals, and Bob Johnston, an antiquarian book dealer from Portland, Maine. In a long evening, Parker learns more about the Fractured Atlas. Realizing he must stop Quayle, Parker and friends embark on a junket that takes them first to Amsterdam and then to the U.K. for a final confrontation with their nemesis.
Essentially a series of darkly entertaining yarns perfect for fireside reading late on cold, rainy nights.