- Shaun Baines
A Book of Bones by John Connolly
He is our best hope.
He is our last hope.
On a lonely moor in the northeast of England, the body of a young woman is discovered near the site of a vanished church. In the south, a girl lies buried beneath a Saxon mound. To the southeast, the ruins of a priory hide a human skull.
Each is a sacrifice, a summons.
And something in the shadows has heard the call.
But another is coming: Parker the hunter, the avenger. Parker's mission takes him from Maine to the deserts of the Mexican border; from the canals of Amsterdam to the streets of London - he will track those who would cast this world into darkness.
Parker fears no evil.
But evil fears him . . .
Let's get the creepy, stalker stuff out of the way first. I love John Connolly's books. I love Charlie Parker and Angel and Louis. I'm also vastly fond of his other work, in particular the Nocturnes short story collection and The Book of Lost Things, which is uplifting and unsettling at the same time.
Any new book from John Connolly is an opportunity for joy so when I laid my grubby mitts on A Book of Bones, I knew there were good times ahead.
For fans of the Charlie Parker series, it's fair to say A Book of Bones is something of a departure. It's the size of a house brick for starters; big enough for Parker himself to employ as a weapon should the need arise.
It's also more of a globe-trotting affair. Other Parker novels are set in backwater water American townships. Here we have Amsterdam and northern England featuring heavily. I'm from the north of England so I was thrilled and while I didn't recognise the locations, I did recognise the dreariness of both weather and the characters' outlook on life.
Connolly is known for his hybridisation of genre, blending mystery, horror and spirituality into one heady brew. In A Book of Bones, he adds police procedural, which might be jarring for hardcore Parker fans. It took me a spell to accept this new interloper, but when I did, I saw how it acted as a clever juxtaposition between the 'reality' of a murder investigation and the hazy mysticism that inspires it.
These are merely superficial differences. The dark humour, the playful language, the gore – it's all there. Thematic tensions hold it together and the pace trips happily along as it always does.
I loved it, but as the last paragraph drew to a close, I couldn't help but feel sad. After a barrel load of books and countless adventures, Parker, Louis and Angel are feeling their age. Hairs are turning grey. Injuries are no longer shrugged off. As they grow in frailty, the Not Gods creep ever nearer to the besting the world.
Am I sensing a looming conclusion in the offing? Perhaps not in the next book, but the book after? The stakes keep getting higher and there's only so long you can keep the goodies and baddies apart for the final showdown.
I hope I'm being paranoid. I hope we keep John Connolly alive into his two hundreds, feeding him Berocca and dictionaries so he can continue to write this series, despite any objections he may have. I hope Parker and the gang have a lovely holiday and come back all refreshed, willing and able to fight another day.
To buy the book in the UK, visit a splendid bookshop or find A Book of Bones on Amazon here.