05/28/2024

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The Instruments of Darkness (Charlie Parker #21) by John Connolly @jconnollybooks @HodderBooks

The Instruments of Darkness (Charlie Parker #21) by John Connolly @jconnollybooks @HodderBooks

Source: Audiobook review copy
Publication: 7 May 2024 from Hodder & Stoughton
Narration: Jeff Harding
Listening time: 14hrs 33m
ASIN: B0CS3Z36DV

My thanks to Hodder & Stoughton and Isis Audio for an advance copy for review

A Child Missing. A Mother Accused. Charlie Parker Is Their Only Hope.

In Maine, Colleen Clark stands accused of the worst crime a mother can commit: the abduction and possible murder of her child. Everyone – ambitious politicians in an election season, hardened police, ordinary folk – has an opinion on the case, and most believe she is guilty.

But most is not all. Defending Colleen is the lawyer Moxie Castin, and working alongside him is the private investigator Charlie Parker, who senses the tale has another twist, one involving a husband too eager to accept his wife’s guilt, a disgraced psychic seeking redemption, and an old crooked house deep in the Maine woods, a house that should never have been built.

A house, and what dwells beneath.

A new Charlie Parker book is always a cause for celebration. I’m also a big fan of Jeff Harding’s narration, which in this instance, with his gravelly voice, fits the Charlie Parker character beautifully and yet he also manages to read the female characters without strain and the whole works together flawlessly.

The Instruments of Darkness follows Charlie in the search for Henry, a missing 2 year old boy, in his home territory of Portland, Maine. Colleen Clark had been suffering from post-partum depression and had trouble sleeping, undoubtedly not helped by her separation from her husband. So she had one glass of wine and went for an early night. When she awoke, Henry had vanished.

A search proves fruitless, and then her husband finds the boy’s bloody blanket under the spare tire in her car. Colleen protests her innocence but to no avail. She is charged with murder and with even her husband believing her guilty; the odds are stacked against her.

The prosecutor is positively salivating about the profile this case will give him in an election year.  Moxie Castin, her lawyer, hires Charlie to investigate, and find the boy before the court of public opinion has Colleen hung, drawn and quartered, metaphysically if not literally.

The Instruments of Darkness contains the characters we have come to love in these books. The Fulci Brothers, Louis and Angel all feature prominently and we meet Sabine Drew, a psychic who, despite early success, blotted her copy book some years ago and is now discredited. But Sabine has heard Henry’s cries and she is propelled to go to Maine to see if she can help find him. Charlie is not inclined to dismiss her. He knows there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy.

Parker’s early investigations show that all is not as it seems. Colleen’s husband Stephen had had an affair with Mara Teller before Henry disappeared. But Teller cannot be found. This case just doesn’t smell right to Parker.

Tracking down the elusive Teller and following insight from Sabine Drew takes Charlie, Angel and Louis to the Maine woods; to a creepy place which the locals avoid because they are sure something evil lurks there.

Here the book takes on the familiar, eerie, supernatural feel we get from this series. The sense of evil festering in the dark woods; the tension as Sabine hears both the cries of a child and experiences some of what he is feeling evokes a strong sense of fear and revulsion for whatever is out there.

The tension is high and the fear is strong, aided by other, more distinctly human, threats, in the form of a white supremacist militia whose members are storing arms deep in the woods in preparation for an assault on Portland.

John Connolly is able to leaven some of this tension with a string of dry and witty one-liners which always provoke a smile or outright laughter. Charlie, Angel and Louis are hard, battle weary characters but they can always raise a moment of humour even as they head into the bowels of full on explosive chaos and destruction.

Verdict: This is a beautifully complex story with multiple strands which John Connolly knits together to make a perfectly formed, gripping and tense novel that raises the hairs on the back of your neck and engulfs the reader in darkness with just a sliver of light to show you the way out.
The Instruments of Darkness is classic Connolly and classic Charlie Parker. I loved it.

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John Connolly is author of the Charlie Parker mysteries, The Book of Lost Things, the Samuel Johnson novels for young adults and, with his partner, Jennifer Ridyard, co-author of the Chronicles of the Invaders. John Connolly’s debut – EVERY DEAD THING – introduced the character of Private Investigator Charlie Parker, and swiftly launched him right into the front rank of thriller writers. All his subsequent novels have been Sunday Times bestsellers. He was the winner of the 2016 CWA Short Story Dagger for On the Anatomization of an Unknown Man (1637) by Frans Mier from NIGHT MUSIC: Nocturnes Vol 2. In 2007 he was awarded the Irish Post Award for Literature. He was the first non-American writer to win the US Shamus award and the first Irish writer to win an Edgar award. BOOKS TO DIE FOR, which he edited with Declan Burke, was the winner of the 2013 Anthony, Agatha and Macavity awards for Best Non-Fiction work.