Beneath the generic title—when is it not a time of torment for seen-it-all detective Charlie Parker?—lurks a supernatural nightmare within a criminal nightmare.
Now that he’s been released from a Maine prison after serving five years for possession of child pornography, Jerome Burnel offers Charlie $50,000 to clear his name and find out who planted the evidence that convicted him. Although he ordinarily reserves his time for grander, darker schemes (A Song of Shadows, 2015, etc.), Charlie is tempted by his suspicion that Burnel may well have been framed in revenge for his daring interruption of a violent confrontation between blackmailing sexpot Corrie Wyatt and Henry Forde, a target who turned out to be a lot more dangerous than she was. While Charlie’s pondering whether to take the case of the disgraced hero, Burnel vanishes, and Charlie, who doesn’t think for a minute that he had the gumption to break parole on his own, vows to track him down. The trail leads to Plassey County, West Virginia, where a mountain cleft called the Cut is home to a murderous nest of backwoods criminals, a sheriff determined to root them out, and the Dead King, the fearsome presence that gives the Cut uncanny powers. Connolly adorns his portentous clash-of-titans mythology with extravagant inventiveness: every character has a florid back story and a resume of yearslong conflicts with all the others. No matter how many lawmen and members of the Cut the furiously boiling plot claims, others arise like zombies to take their places as the tale lurches toward an apocalyptic confrontation and an epilogue in which the Dead King is bested by a most unlikely warrior.
No more likely than late Faulkner novels to win new fans for the author, but bestselling author Connolly’s fans, who already know what they like, won’t care a bit.