New York PD Detective Charlie “Bird” Parker, relocated to his hometown in Maine after the murders of his wife and daughter in Every Dead Thing (1999), tracks a serial killer.
Connolly, a former Dublin journalist, opens his grim new thriller with a prologue depicting a deal gone bad on the Maine coast, crossfire that leaves more bodies down than the reader can count, and no clear tie to the story that follows. Recovering alcoholic Charlie, still suffering and grieving, is toting up his many, many losses when Rita Ferris asks him to get some overdue child support from her wife-beating ex-husband, Billy Purdue, who lives in a wretched bullet-shaped trailer. When approached, Billy cuts Bird’s throat part-way, but shucks out several new hundred-dollar bills for Rita from a much larger stack that Bird suspects he stole from the Boston Mafia. Then Billy disappears, and Rita and their six-year-old son are found murdered. What does all this have to do with the 1965 killing of five women whose corpses were discovered dangling from a tree by Bird’s grandfather? Although a retarded man was arrested for the crimes, Grandpa (also a cop) was convinced they were committed by Caleb Kyle, a man whose name has since become byword in the Maine woods for pure evil—a name on the lips of the old woman who commits suicide after the prologue’s mysterious rampage. The police, the Mafia, and Bird, helped by a couple of gay hit men, are all looking for Billy, whose link to Caleb sparks the bloody denouement. Bird is left with his armies of the dead in a world where people are hurt and die badly while the hero feels rage and sorrow. Connolly’s honest but brutal characterizations leave the reader with wounds that need stitching.
Long, but a strong stride forward.