A SONG OF SHADOWS
As luck would have it, I was making a cup of tea a few weeks ago, flicked on the radio and tuned in unexpectedly halfway through ‘The Hollow King’, a short dark fantasy tale about the claustrophobic love that binds a Queen to her King. Seconds in, the kettle was switched off, the tea abandoned. I stood, spellbound, just listening and wondering who had written this mesmerising story. And then the penny dropped. The unique ‘voice’ was so similar to the voice in the book I was reading it had to be John Connolly.
So where can I start with ‘A Song of Shadows’, the thirteenth novel in the private detective Charlie Parker series? No small wonder that a critic from The Times commented that ‘This man is so good, it’s terrifying.’ And terrified I was.
To set the scene, Charlie Parker is in poor shape after almost losing his life, not once, but three times after a shooting. He’s a wreck of a man in every sense, but this does not destroy his ability to detect trouble when it arises. So when a body is found on a beach, apparently a suicide, Parker isn’t convinced. Believing murder has been committed he quickly involves himself in a case that stretches right back to the Second World War. Think Nazis. Think concentration camps. Think atrocities on a grand scale. And just before you say, ‘well, yawn, this fertile terrain has been excavated many times before’, think again because in Connolly’s hands he crafts something that will hold you from the first line to the last. Beautifully written with a lyrical, elegiac quality to the prose, rich in psychological insight and human complexity, packed with fascinating forensic detail, and with a Hitman that makes me shiver long after he met his (very satisfying) end, this novel is an absolutely ‘must read’ for 2015.
And, if this isn’t enough, there’s something else, which I’ll only whisper to those who are busily crafting their first novel. Connolly breaks every rule you’ll ever learn in a creative writing class. There’s a lot of ‘telling’, but my God, I could listen to this writer’s voice and follow Charlie Parker endlessly, and without a second thought.