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Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Unquiet. John Connolly. Hodder (2008)

This book, in common with the other Charlie Parker stories, is an odd book. It is significantly overwritten and shrouds a very nasty mystery in a supernatural, Gothic framework that manages to diminish and expand the story at the same time. There is no doubt that John Connolly is a hugely talented writer and he has a gift for creating compelling narratives that encompass appalling activities with skill and sympathy for the cast. At the same time there is an enormous superstructure tied to the stories that gives them a very distinctive flavour while slowing the momentum of the mystery. Charlie Parker is a private investigator working in Maine who has suffered an appalling tragedy in his life, the horrific death of his wife and daughter. Their ghosts haunt him still and their deaths gave him a sense of the fragility of social order and the magnitude of evil. He is hired by a woman being stalked by a very dangerous man, Frank Merrick who is looking to revenge himself for the disappearance of his daughter. A disappearance he believes the woman's missing father had a part in.
The opening of the book, which is essentially unrelated to the remainder is one of the best sequences in the book and where John Connolly's writing style is used to its best effect. The rest of the story as the initial questions start to lead to a more widespread corruption and human depravity is explored is very good. The central mystery is well structured, the reveals and pacing are excellent and the conclusion is sharp and logical. It is the surrounding business with the vaguely supernatural aspects that sometime catch and amplify the themes of the story and sometimes just get in the way. The overwrought atmosphere sits uneasily with the action of the story. On balance this is an enjoyable read, it is a fine balance.

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