On one of the occasions when I had the chance to interview the handsome and scholarly John Connolly, he told me that the thing about genre fiction is that “many people’s affection is tied to character…give them a period of time with that character every year.” It helps if you have a character who deserves the reader’s affection as much as Charlie Parker, the hardened private detective at the center of Connolly’s long, wildly successful and always wonderful book series. The author went on to say that when people take a character to heart “they’ll forgive the weird bad book”. I’ve been on board since a friend passed me Every dead thing in 1999 ; if there has been a “bad book” since, I must have missed it.
Good news then if you, like me, have been waiting all year to spend time with Parker because here are two episodes in one volume. I suppose, for the sake of accuracy, we should refer to them as novels, but there’s a substantial amount of eating and drinking here. Fans may already know a little about “The Sisters Strange” which Connolly serialized on the web during the pandemic to keep us going. Now extended to a director’s cut, it’s apparently a story of petty crooks making a numismatist but, true to form, there are more sinister forces at work, driven by a possibly possessed Celtic coin. which can add years to the wearer’s life. The caper revolves around the seemingly ancient coin collector Kepler, a character capable of haunting the dreams of the waitress serving him breakfast and scaring people into accepting a dollar for goods worth around two cents. a thousand times more.
The titular sisters – christened Dolors and Ambar, as spell checker was unavailable at the time – were embroiled in a love triangle with a Raum Buker, a man reckless enough to have once tried to extort money from a friend of the mother of the Fulci Brothers. Suffice it to say, if you’re new to the Parkerverse, the fabulously furious Fulcis are the kind of tough guys Chuck Norris would think twice about crossing paths with. They previously “persuaded” Buker to leave town, but he’s back, after a stint inside. What’s with that tattoo that he looks like he’s trying to scratch his arm? Why do strange symbols keep appearing on mirrors? And why aren’t the local authorities shutting down The Braycott Arms, a trouble-seeking establishment a block away?
As Portland prepares for the COVID lockdown, “The Furies” drags Parker in when a crowd window hires him to retrieve his dead daughter’s precious keepsakes, which were stolen by a good couple of rascals; Veale, a man who seems to have no emotional connection to the world, and the sexually abusive Pantuff. And all this after said widow was tied up, assaulted and had to endure the threat of having her daughter’s body fed to the pigs by her late husband’s associates.
Would-be extortionists are entrenched in – you guessed it – The Braycott Arms where Veale is convinced a child is on the loose. It seems that the spirit of the girl has not yet left this realm. Along with all of this, there’s a domestic violence case that proves Parker is getting at least some real-world work.
Although they are separate stories, they are tied together by the familiar setting of Parker’s Portland, as well as welcoming cameos from recurring characters, Fulcis and Charlie’s assassin buddies, Louis and Angel, and the hotel. aforementioned directed by Bonny Waldin, though the reader might wonder. why Parker has never had reason to investigate such a den of iniquity before.
Despite, or perhaps because of being situated slightly outside the narrative he has been constructing over the past few decades, The Furies is as inescapable as a beloved pet, but you simply can’t go wrong with Connolly, a master of rhythm, dialogue and action. It also manages once again to introduce those otherworldly elements – “something repulsive” that “infests” its characters – without resorting to the kind of “Look over there!” score that stigmatizes the work of lesser talents. In one of those interviews, he hinted that he already knew how the Parker series was going to end. Let’s hope it’s still a long way off.