Bad Men by John Connolly
TK introduced me to Connolly’s Charlie Parker series way back during the first Cannonball, and I really dug them. Connolly is incredibly deft at writing a procedural thriller with just the slightest dark little horror sheen on it. It’s like Stephen King’s Homicide: Life On Maine’s Streets. It’s bad men being stopped by a damaged man, and there’s this sort of eyes-glowing-in-the-shadows watching and maybe waiting. He doesn’t hunt werewolves, he hunts men haunted by the thought that they might be werewolves, but the haunting is by a force that really doesn’t get explained but might be worse than any full moon. I think the only other author who may do it better is Tana French.
So Bad Men. It’s a stand-alone novel, where Charlie Parker makes a cameo appearance. I opted to read it because the surviving characters from this book make an appearance in the last Charlie Parker book that I read, The Wolf in Winter, which I quite enjoyed. I’d always been meaning to get around to this book, but the premise sounded interesting. Connolly’s never done cross-over with any of his other series to my knowledge, so I never got around to them. But it was fun.
I gave it three stars, but it’s probably three and a half stars, and much closer to four. Ranking systems. Fuck you. The story itself is solid. A Maine island is haunted by a massacre committed by rogue Indians and a psychotic outcast. And then becomes a haunted place. On this island a woman has made her home, hiding her past from her wicked criminal husband who was locked away. Only he escapes, and tracks her, with his army of pro-killers, to the island.
As a stand-alone, Connolly has the ability to kill the fuck out of everybody. And it’s awesome. Also, he peoples his novel with some particularly damaged bastards. Damaged is his goddamn oeuvre, and he’s spectacular at it. The flaws come in the telling. Connolly is always ponderous, and his novels tend to feel about fifty pages too long. It’s his blessing and curse, that slow doling out enables him to smash you in the face with the horror, but sometimes gets a bit wordy and sloshy and slows things down a bit. Also, he does a strange thing with the narration in this, where his omniscient narrator will go in and out of the characters’ heads, but often during the same chapter. So we’ll be in the thoughts of one character and then slip into another person’s head in the next paragraph, or sometimes in the middle of that paragraph. It’s jarring and kind of takes you out of the flow.
But Bad Men was enjoyable, and I’m glad I finally got around to checking it out, and I’m excited now to dive into the newest Charlie Parker, A Song of Shadows.