Irish journalist Connolly’s first novel is an ambitious, grisly, monstrously overextended foray up and down the eastern US—and deep into Hannibal Lecter territory. Two years ago, NYPD Detective Charlie (“Bird”) Parker left his wife and daughter for the thousandth time to go drinking and returned to find them brutally murdered and posed by someone with a macabre sense of ritual. Now a recovering alcoholic, Bird is off the force, not a licensed p.i. but available for jobs like finding Catherine Demeter, the missing date of wealthy Isobel Barton’s stepson Stephen, who seems to have followed young Evan Baines in vanishing from the Barton estate. Extricating himself from his usual round of drug-runners and bail-jumpers, Bird traces Catherine’s troubles back to the murder of her sister in Haven, Virginia. At the same time, the Traveling Man, the killer of Bird’s wife and daughter, roars back into his life with a gruesome memento. Catherine Demeter’s disappearance, Bird realizes, has something to do with his own loss; but how can he figure out exactly what when everybody who might give him information is getting killed? Against all odds, Bird tracks down Catherine and the criminal who made her disappear—only to realize (with a sense of exhaustion many readers will share) that solving the mystery has simply returned him to square one, hunting once more for the Traveling Man among the even more violent citizens of Louisiana as his search takes him and his sidekicks, criminal psychologist Rachel Wolfe and two lowlifes called Louis and Angel, into the middle of a bayou gang war. The crowded canvas teems with doomed minor characters, but the extravagantly gifted Connolly, living up to his title, is never too busy for another flashback to Bird’s violent past en route to his final confrontation with the Traveling Man. Beneath the unblinking carnage and grueling pace is a truly harrowing murder plot. Only the Traveling Man himself disappoints.