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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
These days, it seems as if any book featuring a serial killer is inevitably compared to Thomas Harris's Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs. Indeed, this is exactly what has happened to John Connolly's Every Dead Thing. Kirkus Reviews says, "Irish journalist Connolly's first novel is an ambitious, grisly, monstrously overextended foray...deep into Hannibal Lecter territory." Publishing News ran an article called "In the Steps of Hannibal..." subtitled, "Lecter, that is." Although meant as compliments, I think comments like these unjustly pigeonhole this riveting novel. While Connolly certainly owes something to Harris, he also owes a considerable debt to other genre authors. Connolly adopts tropes and techniques from these authors, successfully blending these elements to create a unique, satisfying tale of his own.
Several months prior to the main action of Every Dead Thing, NYPD Detective Charlie "Bird" Parker makes a decision that will haunt him for the rest of his life. Fresh from an argument with his wife, Susan, he storms out of the house and heads for a local bar, determined to tie one on. Returning home several hours later, Parker makes a grisly discovery — Susan and his three-year-old daughter Jennifer have been murdered, their faces removed, their mutilated bodies arranged in a position that Parker later discovers is meant to mimic Estienne's Pieta. Grief stricken, Parker vows vengeance on their killer.
Parker leaves the force to investigate the murders full time. Months later, however, he is no closer to solving the crime. In fact,theonly clue he has to the killer's identity is one provided by Tante Marie Aguillard, a New Orleans mystic who tells him the killer, whom she calls the Traveling Man, has struck before, and has buried a previous victim in the bayou near her home. Parker isn't quite sure why he believes her, but is certain she's telling the truth.
The frustrated Parker is thus almost grateful for the distraction provided by a missing person's case fed to him by old police friend Walter Cole. Parker's search for Catherine Demeter, the missing girlfriend of a wealthy Manhattan socialite, leads him to the ironically named small town of Haven, Virginia, where his outsider status and insistent questions open wounds long thought closed. Parker solves the case, but only at the cost of great damage to his person and his psyche. Unknown to him at the time, however, he indirectly moves closer to his ultimate goal — although the connections between the two cases are tenuous, this seemingly unrelated investigation is only the beginning of a tortuous chain of events that will eventually lead him to the Traveling Man. Their final, brutal confrontation is surprising and terrifying — Connolly keeps readers guessing until the very end, stretching nerves to their breaking point.
The first half of the novel evokes both Ross MacDonald and Andrew Vachss, as Parker uncovers secrets that lead to the discovery of a child killer thought dead for over three decades. The second half strays into territory mined successfully by James Lee Burke, as Parker travels to New Orleans for his final confrontation with the Traveling Man. Connolly pays homage to the genre in other ways as well. In the hard-boiled tradition, Parker is sullen, often depressed, but, even so, is always ready with a witty comeback. In a nod to Robert B. Parker, and maybe to Joe Lansdale, Parker's current flame is a criminal psychologist, his closest allies two tough, black gay men.
Connolly even goes so far as to name certain characters after genre authors. Of course, there's Charlie Parker, perhaps named for Robert B. Parker or Richard Stark's famous thief. There's also police officer Gerald Kersh, FBI agents Woolrich and Ross, and supporting characters Emo Ellison, Evan Baines, and Gunther Bloch.
It's been reported that Simon & Schuster paid $1 million for the U.S. rights to Every Dead Thing. To my mind, it's money well spent. Connolly has written a dark, hard-hitting, yet thoughtful thriller, one that advances the genre even as it nods respectfully to its predecessors. Well plotted and solidly crafted, Every Dead Thing is a powerful, often frightening piece of writing, an auspicious debut from a truly gifted storyteller.
&151; Hank Wagner