Every Dead Thing (Charlie Parker Series #1)

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Former NYPD detective Charlie "Bird" Parker is on the verge of madness. Tortured by the unsolved slayings of his wife and young daughter, he is a man consumed by guilt, regret, and the desire for revenge. When his former partner asks him to track down a missing girl, Parker finds himself drawn into a world beyond his imagining: a world where thirty-year-old killings remain shrouded in fear and lies, a world where the ghosts of the dead torment the living, a world haunted by the murderer responsible for the deaths...
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Every Dead Thing (Charlie Parker Series #1)

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Former NYPD detective Charlie "Bird" Parker is on the verge of madness. Tortured by the unsolved slayings of his wife and young daughter, he is a man consumed by guilt, regret, and the desire for revenge. When his former partner asks him to track down a missing girl, Parker finds himself drawn into a world beyond his imagining: a world where thirty-year-old killings remain shrouded in fear and lies, a world where the ghosts of the dead torment the living, a world haunted by the murderer responsible for the deaths in his family - a serial killer who uses the human body to create works of art and takes faces as his prize. But the search awakens buried instincts in Parker: instincts for survival, for compassion, for love, and, ultimately, for killing. Aided by a beautiful young psychologist and a pair of bickering career criminals, Parker becomes the bait in a trap set in the humid bayous of Louisiana, a trap that threatens the lives of everyone in its reach.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The 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

Philip Oakes
...only layer upon layer of tosh. -- Literary Review
Library Journal
Connolly's debut novel is the story of cop turned private investigator Charlie "Bird" Parker's hunt for the murderer of his wife and child, a serial killer whose modus operandi is the surgical dissection of his live victims. Written in a remarkably American voice that only occasionally gives away the fact that its 31-year-old Irish author has never lived in the United States, the tale is a double-helixed storm through the world of organized crime and the underworld of serial predators. Bird's chase leads him from New York City to New Orleans and many small nowheres in between, all fairly believably brought to life through this outsider's observant eye. The grim and grisly events are emotionally balanced by the book's dark humor and Bird's vulnerability. This is a highly intelligent and exciting novel, with almost enough action and story for two books. Recommended.--Lisa Bier, Austin, TX Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Irish America Magazine
...[G]ripping....[T]he tale draws in an eclectic mix of characters...and the reader will find himself almost holding his breath in anticipation as Parker dances near to a solution...
Kirkus Reviews
Irish journalist Connolly's first novel is an ambitious, grisly, monstrously overextended foray up and down the eastern US—and deep into Hannibal Lecter territory. Two years ago, NYPD Detective Charlie ("Bird") Parker left his wife and daughter for the thousandth time to go drinking and returned to find them brutally murdered and posed by someone with a macabre sense of ritual. Now a recovering alcoholic, Bird is off the force, not a licensed p.i. but available for jobs like finding Catherine Demeter, the missing date of wealthy Isobel Barton's stepson Stephen, who seems to have followed young Evan Baines in vanishing from the Barton estate. Extricating himself from his usual round of drug-runners and bail-jumpers, Bird traces Catherine's troubles back to the murder of her sister in Haven, Virginia. At the same time, the Traveling Man, the killer of Bird's wife and daughter, roars back into his life with a gruesome memento. Catherine Demeter's disappearance, Bird realizes, has something to do with his own loss; but how can he figure out exactly what when everybody who might give him information is getting killed? Against all odds, Bird tracks down Catherine and the criminal who made her disappear—only to realize (with a sense of exhaustion many readers will share) that solving the mystery has simply returned him to square one, hunting once more for the Traveling Man among the even more violent citizens of Louisiana as his search takes him and his sidekicks, criminal psychologist Rachel Wolfe and two lowlifes called Louis and Angel, into the middle of a bayou gang war. The crowded canvas teems with doomed minor characters, but the extravagantly gifted Connolly, living up to histitle, is never too busy for another flashback to Bird's violent past en route to his final confrontation with the Traveling Man. Beneath the unblinking carnage and grueling pace is a truly harrowing murder plot. Only the Traveling Man himself disappoints. .
From the Publisher
“Stunning. . . . Every Dead Thing ensnares us in its very first pages and speeds us through a harrowing plot to a riveting climax.”
—#1 internationally bestselling author Jeffery Deaver

"Intelligent, deep, and literate....Buy it and be scared."
The Saturday Times (London)

"One of the best thriller writers we have."
— Harlan Coben

"A stunner....As riveting and chilling as The Silence of the Lambs."
San Francisco Examiner

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671043865
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
  • Publication date: 5/28/1999
  • Series: Charlie Parker Series, #1
  • Format: Cassette
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 4.08 (w) x 7.06 (h) x 1.15 (d)

Meet the Author

John Connolly

John Connolly is the author of the Charlie Parker series of mystery novels, the supernatural collection Nocturnes, and the Samuel Johnson and Conquest of the Invaders series for younger readers. He lives in Dublin, Ireland. For more information, see his website at JohnConnollyBooks.com, or follow him on Twitter @JConnollyBooks.

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    1. Hometown:
      Dublin, Ireland
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 31, 1968
    2. Place of Birth:
      Dublin, Ireland
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English, Trinity College Dublin, 1992; M.A. in Journalism, Dublin City University, 1993
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

The waitress was in her fifties, dressed in a tight black miniskirt, white blouse, and black high heels. Parts of her spilled out of every item of clothing she wore, making her look like she had swollen mysteriously sometime between dressing and arriving for work. She called me "darlin'" each time she filled my coffee cup. She didn't say anything else, which was fine by me.

I had been sitting at the window for over ninety minutes now, watching the brownstone across the street, and the waitress must have been wondering exactly how long I was planning to stay and if I was ever going to pay the check. Outside, the streets of Astoria buzzed with bargain hunters. I had even read the New York Times from start to finish without nodding off in between as I passed the time waiting for Fat Ollie Watts to emerge from hiding. My patience was wearing thin.

In moments of weakness, I sometimes considered ditching the New York Times on weekdays and limiting my purchase to the Sunday edition, when I could at least justify buying it on the grounds of bulk. The other option was to begin reading the Post, although then I'd have to start clipping coupons and walking to the store in my bedroom slippers.

Maybe in reacting so badly to the Times that morning I was simply killing the messenger. It had been announced that Hansel McGee, a state Supreme Court judge and, according to some, one of the worst judges in New York, was retiring in December and might be nominated to the board of the city's Health and Hospitals Corporation.

Even seeing McGee's name in print made me ill. In the 1980s, he had presided over the case of a woman who had been raped when she was nine years old by a fifty-four-year-old man named James Johnson, an attendant in Pelham Bay Park who had convictions for robbery, assault, and rape.

McGee overturned a jury award to the woman of $3.5 million with the following words: "An innocent child was heinously raped for no reason at all; yet that is one of the risks of living in a modern society." At the time, his judgment had seemed callous and an absurd justification for overturning the ruling. Now, seeing his name before me again after what had happened to my family, his views seemed so much more abhorrent, a symptom of the collapse of goodness in the face of evil.

Erasing McGee from my mind, I folded the newspaper neatly, tapped a number on my cell phone, and turned my eyes to an upper window of the slightly run-down apartment building opposite. The phone was picked up after three rings and a woman's voice whispered a cautious hello. It had the sound of cigarettes and booze to it, like a bar door scraping across a dusty floor.

"Tell your fat asshole boyfriend that I'm on my way to pick him up and he'd better not make me chase him," I told her. "I'm real tired and I don't plan on running around in this heat." Succinct, that was me. I hung up, left five dollars on the table, and stepped out onto the street to wait for Fat Ollie Watts to panic.

The city was in the middle of a hot, humid summer spell, which was due to end the following day with the arrival of thunderstorms and rain. Currently, it was hot enough to allow for T-shirts, chinos, and overpriced sunglasses, or, if you were unlucky enough to be holding down a responsible job, hot enough to make you sweat like a pig under your suit as soon as you left the a/c behind. There wasn't even a gust of wind to rearrange the heat.

Two days earlier, a solitary desk fan had struggled to make an impact on the sluggish warmth in the Brooklyn Heights office of Benny Low. Through an open window I could hear Arabic being spoken on Atlantic Avenue and I could smell the cooking scents coming from the Moroccan Star, half a block away. Benny was a minor-league bail bondsman who had banked on Fat Ollie staying put until his trial. The fact that he had misjudged Fat Ollie's faith in the justice system was one reason why Benny continued to remain a minor-league bondsman.

The money being offered on Fat Ollie Watts was reasonable, and there were things living on the bottom of ponds that were smarter than most bail jumpers. There was a fifty-thousand-dollar bond on Fat Ollie, the result of a misunderstanding between Ollie and the forces of law and order over the precise ownership of a 1993 Chevy Beretta, a 1990 Mercedes 300 SE, and a number of well-appointed sport utility vehicles, all of which had come into Ollie's possession by illegal means.

Fat Ollie's day started to go downhill when an eagle-eyed patrolman familiar with Ollie's reputation as something less than a shining light in the darkness of a lawless world spotted the Chevy under a tarpaulin and called for a check on the plates. They were false and Ollie was raided, arrested, and questioned. He kept his mouth shut but packed a bag and headed for the hills as soon as he made bail, in an effort to avoid further questions about who had placed the cars in his care. That source was reputed to be Salvatore "Sonny" Ferrera, the son of a prominent capo. There had been rumors lately that relations between father and son had deteriorated in recent weeks, but nobody was saying why.

"Fuckin' goomba stuff," as Benny Low had put it that day in his office.

"Anything to do with Fat Ollie?"

"Fuck do I know? You want to call Ferrera and ask?"

I looked at Benny Low. He was completely bald and had been since his early twenties, as far as I knew. His glabrous skull glistened with tiny beads of perspiration. His cheeks were ruddy and flesh hung from his chin and jowls like melted wax. His tiny office, located above a halal store, smelled of sweat and mold. I wasn't even sure why I had said I would take the job. I had money — insurance money, money from the sale of the house, money from what had once been a shared account, even some cash from my retirement fund — and Benny Low's money wasn't going to make me any happier. Maybe Fat Ollie was just something to do.

Benny Low swallowed once, loudly. "What? Why are you lookin' at me like that?"

"You know me, Benny, don't you?"

"Fuck does that mean? Course I know you. You want a reference? What?" He laughed halfheartedly, spreading his pudgy hands wide as if in supplication. "What?" he said again. His voice faltered, and for the first time, he actually looked scared. I knew that people had been talking about me in the months since the deaths, talking about things I had done, things I might have done. The look in Benny Low's eyes told me that he had heard about them too and believed that they could be true.

Something about Fat Ollie's flight just didn't sit right. It wouldn't be the first time that Ollie had faced a judge on a stolen vehicles rap, although the suspected connection to the Ferreras had forced the bond up on this occasion. Ollie had a good lawyer to rely on; otherwise his only connection to the automobile industry would have come from making license plates on Rikers Island. There was no particular reason for Ollie to run, and no reason why he would risk his life by fingering Sonny over something like this.

"Nothing, Benny. It's nothing. You hear anything else, you tell me."

"Sure, sure," said Benny, relaxing again. "You'll be the first to know."

As I left his office, I heard him mutter under his breath. I couldn't be sure what he said but I knew what it sounded like. It sounded like Benny Low had just called me a killer like my father.

It had taken me most of the next day to locate Ollie's current squeeze through some judicious questioning, and another fifty minutes that morning to determine if Ollie was with her through the simple expedient of calling the local Thai food joints and asking them if they had made any deliveries to the address in the last week.

Ollie was a Thai food freak and, like most skips, stuck to his habits even while on the run. People don't change very much, which usually makes the dumb ones easy to find. They take out subscriptions to the same magazines, eat in the same places, drink the same beers, call the same women, sleep with the same men. After I threatened to call the health inspectors, an Oriental roach motel called the Bangkok Sun House confirmed deliveries to one Monica Mulrane at an address in Astoria, leading to coffee, the New York Times, and a phone call to wake Ollie up.

True to form and dim as a ten-watt bulb, Ollie opened the door of 2317 about four minutes after my call, stuck his head out, and then commenced an awkward, shambling run down the steps toward the sidewalk. He was an absurd figure, strands of hair slicked across his bald pate, the elasticated waistband of his tan pants stretched across a stomach of awesome size. Monica Mulrane must have loved him a whole lot to stay with him, because he didn't have money and he sure as hell didn't have looks. It was strange, but I kind of liked Fat Ollie Watts.

He had just set foot on the sidewalk when a jogger wearing a gray sweat suit with the hood pulled up appeared at the corner, ran up to Ollie, and pumped three shots into him from a silenced pistol. Ollie's white shirt was suddenly polka-dotted with red and he folded to the ground. The jogger, left-handed, stood over him and shot him once more in the head.

Someone screamed and I saw a brunette, presumably the by now recently bereaved Monica Mulrane, pause at the door of her apartment block before she ran to the sidewalk to kneel beside Ollie, passing her hands over his bald, bloodied head and crying. The jogger was already backing off, bouncing on the balls of his feet like a fighter waiting for the bell. Then he stopped, returned, and fired a single shot into the top of the woman's head. She folded over the body of Ollie Watts, her back shielding his head. Bystanders were already running for cover behind cars, into stores, and the cars on the street ground to a halt.

I was almost across the street, my Smith & Wesson in my hand, when the jogger ran. He kept his head down and moved fast, the gun still held in his left hand. Even though he wore black gloves, he hadn't dropped the gun at the scene. Either the gun was distinctive or the shooter was dumb. I was banking on the second option.

I was gaining on him when a black Chevy Caprice with tinted windows screeched out from a side street and stood waiting for him. If I didn't shoot, he was going to get away. If I did shoot, there would be hell to pay with the cops. I made my choice. He had almost reached the Chevy when I squeezed off two shots, one hitting the door of the car and the second tearing a bloody hole in the right arm of the jogger's top. He spun, firing two wild shots in my direction as he did so, and I could see his eyes were wide and ultrabright. The killer was wired.

As he turned toward the Chevy it sped away, the driver spooked by my shots, leaving Fat Ollie's killer stranded. He fired off another shot, which shattered the window of the car to my left. I could hear people screaming and, in the distance, the wail of approaching sirens.

The jogger sprinted toward an alley, glancing over his shoulder at the sound of my shoes hammering on the road behind him. As I made the corner a bullet whined off the wall above me, peppering me with pieces of concrete. I looked up to see the jogger moving beyond the midpoint of the alley, staying close to the wall. If he got around the corner at the end, I would lose him in the crowds.

The gap at the end of the alley was, briefly, clear of people. I decided to risk the shot. The sun was behind me as I straightened, firing twice in quick succession. I was vaguely aware of people at either side of me scattering like pigeons from a stone as the jogger's right shoulder arched back with the impact of one of my shots. I shouted at him to drop the piece but he turned awkwardly, his left hand bringing the gun up. Slightly off balance, I fired two more shots from around twenty feet. His left knee exploded as one of the hollow points connected, and he collapsed against the wall of the alley, his pistol skidding harmlessly away toward some trash cans and black bags.

As I closed on him I could see he was ashen faced, his mouth twisted in pain and his left hand gripping the air around his shattered knee without actually touching the wound. Yet his eyes were still bright and I thought I heard him giggle as he pushed himself from the wall and tried to hop away on his good leg. I was maybe fifteen feet from him when his giggles were drowned by the sound of brakes squealing in front of him. I looked up to see the black Chevy blocking the end of the alley, the window on its passenger side down, and then the darkness within was broken by a single muzzle flash.

Fat Ollie's killer bucked and fell forward on the ground. He spasmed once and I could see a red stain spreading across the back of his top. There was a second shot, the back of his head blew a geyser of blood in the air and his face banged once on the filthy concrete of the alley. I was already making for the cover of the trash cans when a bullet whacked into the brickwork above my head, showering me with dust and literally boring a hole through the wall. Then the window of the Chevy roiled up and the car shot off to the east.

I ran to where the jogger lay. Blood flowed from the wounds in his body, creating a dark red shadow on the ground. The sirens were close now and I could see onlookers gathered in the sunlight, watching me as I stood over the body.

The patrol car pulled up minutes later. I already had my hands in the air and my gun on the ground before me, my permit beside it. Fat Ollie's killer was lying at my feet, blood now pooled around his head and linked to the red tide that was congealing slowly in the alley's central gutter. One patrolman kept me covered while his partner patted me down, with more force than was strictly necessary, against the wall. The cop patting me down was young, perhaps no more than twenty-three or twenty-four, and cocky as hell.

"Shit, we got Wyatt Earp here, Sam," he said. "Shootin' it out like it was High Noon."

"Wyatt Earp wasn't in High Noon," I corrected him, as his partner checked my ID. The cop punched me hard in the kidneys in response and I fell to my knees. I heard more sirens nearby, including the tell-tale whine of an ambulance.

"You're a funny guy, hotshot," said the young cop. "Why'd you shoot him?"

"You weren't around," I replied, my teeth gritted in pain. "If you'd been here I'd have shot you instead."

He was just about to cuff me when a voice I recognized said: "Put it away, Harley." I looked over my shoulder at his partner, Sam Rees. I recognized him from my days on the force and he recognized me. I don't think he liked what he saw.

"He used to be a cop. Leave him be."

And then the three of us waited in silence until the others joined us.

Two more blue-and-whites arrived before a mud brown Nova dumped a figure in plain clothes on the curb. I looked up to see Walter Cole walking toward me. I hadn't seen him in almost six months, not since his promotion to lieutenant. He was wearing a long brown leather coat, incongruous in the heat. "Ollie Watts?" he said, indicating the shooter with an inclination of his head. I nodded.

He left me alone for a time as he spoke with uniformed cops and detectives from the local precinct. I noticed that he was sweating heavily in his coat.

"You can come in my car," he said when he eventually returned, eyeing the cop called Harley with ill-concealed distaste. He motioned some more detectives toward him and made some final comments in quiet, measured tones before waving me toward the Nova.

"Nice coat," I said appreciatively as we walked to his car. "How many girls you got in your stable?"

Walter's eyes glinted briefly. "Lee gave me this coat for my birthday. Why do you think I'm wearing it in this goddamned heat? You fire any shots?"

"A couple."

"You do know that there are laws against discharging firearms in public places, don't you?"

"I know that but I'm not sure about the guy dead on the ground back there. I'm not sure that the guy who shot him knows either. Maybe you could try a poster campaign."

"Very funny. Now get in the car."

I did as he said and we pulled away from the curb, the onlookers gaping curiously at us as we headed off through the crowded streets.

Copyright © 1999 by John Connolly

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First Chapter

Chapter 2

Five hours had elapsed since the death of Fat Ollie Watts, his girlfriend, Monica Mulrane, and the shooter, as yet unidentified. I had been interviewed by a pair of detectives from Homicide, neither of whom I knew. Walter Cole did not participate. I was brought coffee twice but otherwise I was left alone after the questionings. Once, when one of the detectives left the room to consult with someone, I caught a glimpse of a tall, thin man in a dark linen suit, the ends of his shirt collar sharp as razors, his red silk tie unwrinkled. He looked like a fed, a vain fed.

The wooden table in the interrogation room was pitted and worn, caffeine-stamped by the edges of hundreds, maybe thousands, of coffee cups. At the left-hand side of the table, near the corner, someone had carved a broken heart into the wood, probably with a nail. And I remembered that heart from another time, from the last time I sat in this room.

"Shit, Walter..."

"Walt, it ain't a good idea for him to be here."

Walter looked at the detectives ranged around the walls, slouched on chairs around the table.

"He's not here," he said. "As far as everyone in this room is concerned, you never saw him."

The interrogation room was crowded with chairs and an additional table had been brought in. I was still on compassionate leave and, as it happened, two weeks away from quitting the force. My family had been dead for two weeks and the investigation had so far yielded nothing. With the agreement of Lieutenant Cafferty, soon to retire, Walter had called a meeting of detectives involved in the case and one or two others who were regarded as some of the best homicide detectives in the city.Io I'll take it slowly." She paused for a moment. "Detective Parker, you may find some of this difficult." There was no apology in her voice; it was a simple statement of fact. I nodded and she continued. "What we're dealing with here appears to be sexual homicide, sadistic sexual homicide."

I traced the carved heart with the tip of my finger, the texture of the grain briefly returning me to the present. The door of the interrogation room opened, and through the gap, I saw the fed pass by. A clerk entered with a white I Love NY cup. The coffee smelled as if it had been brewing since that morning. When I put in the creamer it created only the slightest difference in the color of the liquid. I sipped it and grimaced.

"A sexual homicide generally involves some element of sexual activity as the basis for the sequence of events leading to death," continued Wolfe, sipping at her coffee. "The stripping of the victims and the mutilation of the breasts and genitals indicate a sexual element to the crime, yet we have no evidence of penetration in either victim by either penis, fingers, or foreign objects. The child's hymen was undamaged and there was no evidence of vaginal trauma in the adult victim.

"We also have evidence of a sadistic element to the homicides. The adult victim was tortured prior to death. Flensing took place, specifically on the front of the torso and the face. Combined with the sexual elements, you're dealing with a sexual sadist who obtains gratification from excessive physical and, I would think, mental torture.

"I think he -- and I'm assuming it's a white male, for reasons I'll go into later -- wanted the mother to watch the torture and killing of her child before she herself was tortured and killed. A sexual sadist gets his kicks from the victim's response to torture; in this case, he had two victims, a mother and child, to play off against each other. He's translating sexual fantasies into violent acts, torture, and, eventually, death."

Outside the door of the interrogation room I heard voices suddenly raised. One of them was Walter Cole's. I didn't recognize the other. The voices subsided again, but I knew that they were talking about me. I would find out what they wanted soon enough.

"Okay. The largest focus group for sexual sadists consists of white, female adults who are strangers to the killer, although they may also target males and, as in this case, children. There is also sometimes a correspondence between the victim and someone in the offender's own life.

"Victims are chosen through systematic stalking and surveillance. The killer had probably been watching the family for some time. He knew the husband's habits, knew that if he went to the bar then he would be missing for long enough to allow him to complete what he wanted to do. In this case, I don't think the killer managed that completion.

"The crime scene is unusual in this case. Firstly, the nature of the crime means that it requires somewhere solitary to give the offender time with his victim. In some cases, the offender's residence may have been modified to accommodate his victim, or he may use a converted car or van for the killing. In this case, the killer chose not to do this. I think he may like the element of risk involved. I also think he wanted to make, for want of a better term, an 'impression.'"

An impression, like wearing a bright tie to a funeral.

"The crime was ca refully staged to impact in the most traumatic way on the husband when he returned home."

Maybe Walter had been right. Maybe I shouldn't have come to the briefing. Wolfe's matter-of-factness reduced my wife and child to the level of another gruesome statistic in a violent city, but I hoped that she would say something that would resonate inside me and provide some clue to drive the investigation forward. Two weeks is a long time in a murder case. After two weeks with no progress, unless you get very, very lucky, the investigation starts to grind to a halt.

"This seems to indicate a killer of above-average intelligence, one who likes playing games and gambling," said Wolfe. "The fact that he appeared to want the element of shock to play a part could lead us to conclude that there was a personal element to what he did, directed against the husband, but that's just speculation, and the general pattern of this type of crime is impersonal.

"Generally, crime scenes can be classified as organized, disorganized, or some mix of the two. An organized killer plans the murder and targets the victim carefully, and the crime scene will reflect this element of control. The victims will meet certain criteria which the killer has set: age, hair color maybe, occupation, lifestyle. The use of restraints, as we have in this case, is typical. It reflects the elements of control and planning, since the killer will usually have to bring them to the scene.

"In cases of sexual sadism, the act of killing is generally eroticized. There's a ritual involved; it's usually slow, and every effort is made to ensure that the victim remains conscious and aware up to the point of death. In other words, the killer doesn't want to end the lives of his victims prematurely.

"Now, in this case he didn't succeed, because Jennifer Parker, the child, had a weak heart and it failed following the release of epinephrine into her system. Combined with her mother's attempted escape and the damage caused to her face by striking it against the wall, which may have resulted in temporary loss of consciousness, I believe the killer felt he was losing control of the situation. The crime scene moved from organized to disorganized, and shortly after he commenced flensing, his anger and frustration got the better of him and he mutilated the bodies."

I wanted to leave then. I had made a mistake. Nothing could come of this, nothing good.

"As I said earlier, mutilation of the genitals and breasts is a feature of this type of crime, but this case doesn't conform to the general pattern in a number of crucial ways. I think the mutilation in this case was either a result of anger and loss of control, or it was an attempt to disguise something else, some other element of the ritual which had already commenced and from which the killer was trying to divert attention. In all likelihood, the partial flensing is the key. There's a strong element of display -- it's incomplete, but it's there."

"Why are you so sure it's a white male?" asked Joiner, a black Homicide detective with whom I'd worked once or twice.

"The most frequent perpetrators of sexual sadism are white males. Not women, not black males. White males."

"You're off the hook, Joiner," someone said. There was a burst of laughter, an easing of the tension that had built up in the room. One or two of the others glanced at me but for the most part they acted as if I wasn't there. They w ere professionals, concentrating on amassing any information that might lead to a greater understanding of the killer.

Wolfe let the laughter fade. "Research indicates that as many as forty-three percent of sexual murderers are married. Fifty percent have children. Don't make the mistake of thinking that you're looking for some crazy loner. This guy may be the hero of his local PTA meetings, the coach of the Little League team.

"He could be engaged in a profession that brings him into contact with the public, so he's probably socially adept and he may use that to target his victims. He may have engaged in antisocial behavior in the past, although not necessarily something serious enough to have gotten him a police record.

"Sexual sadists are often police buffs or weapons freaks. He may try to stay in touch with the progress of the investigation, so keep an eye on individuals who ring in with leads or who try to trade off information. He also owns a clean, well-maintained car: clean so it doesn't attract attention, well maintained because he has to be sure he doesn't get stranded at or near the crime scene. The car could have been modified to allow him to transport victims; the door and window handles in the rear will have been removed, the trunk may have been soundproofed. If you think you have a possible suspect, check the trunk for extra fuel, water, ropes, cuffs, ligatures.

"If you go for a search warrant, you'll be looking for any items relating to sexual or violent behavior: pornographic magazines, videos, low-end true-crime stuff, vibrators, clamps, women's clothing, particularly undergarments. Some of these may have belonged to victims or he may have taken other personal items from th em. Look out also for diaries and manuscripts; they may contain details of victims, fantasies, even the crimes themselves. This guy may also have a collection of police equipment and almost certainly has a knowledge of police procedures." Wolfe took a deep breath and sat back in her chair.

"Is he going to do it again?" asked Walter. There was silence in the room for a moment.

"Yes, but you're making one assumption," said Wolfe. Walter looked puzzled.

"You're assuming this is the first. I take it a VICAP has been done?"

VICAP, operational since 1985, is the FBI's Violent Criminal Apprehension Program. Under VICAP, a report is completed on solved or unsolved homicides or attempted homicides, particularly those involving abductions or that are apparently random or motiveless or sexually oriented; on missing persons cases, when foul play is suspected; and on unidentified dead bodies, when the manner of death is known or suspected to be homicide. The report is then submitted to the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime at the FBI's academy in Quantico, in an effort to determine if similar pattern characteristics exist elsewhere in the VICAP system.

"It was submitted."

"Have you requested a profile?"

"Yes, but no profile as yet. Unofficially, the MO doesn't match. The removal of the faces marks it out."

"Yeah, what about the faces?" It was Joiner again.

"I'm still trying to find out more," said Wolfe. "Some killers take souvenirs from their victims. There may be some kind of pseudo-religious or sacrificial element to this case. I'm sorry, I'm really not sure yet."

"You think he could have done something like this before?" said Walter.

Wolfe nodded. "He may have. If he has killed before, then he may have hidden the bodies, and these killings could represent an alteration in a previous pattern of behavior. Maybe, after killing quietly and unobtrusively, he wanted to bring himself to a more public arena. He may have wanted to draw attention to his work. The unsatisfactory nature of these killings, from his point of view, may now cause him to revert to his old pattern. Alternatively, he could recede into a period of dormancy; that's another possibility.

"But if I was to gamble, I'd say that he's been planning his next move carefully. He made mistakes this time and I don't think he achieved the effect he was looking for. The next time, he won't make any mistakes. The next time, unless you catch him first, he's really going to make an impact."

The door of the interrogation room opened and Walter entered with two other men.

"This is Special Agent Ross, FBI, and Detective Barth from Robbery," said Walter. "Barth was working the Watts case. Agent Ross here deals with organized crime."

Close up, Ross's linen suit looked expensive and tailored. Barth, in his JCPenney jacket, looked like a slob by comparison. The two men stood against opposite walls and nodded. When Walter sat, Barth sat as well. Ross remained standing against the wall.

"Anything you're not telling us here?" Walter asked.

"No," I said. "You know as much as I do."

"Agent Ross believes that Sonny Ferrera was behind the killing of Watts and his girlfriend and that you know more than you're saying." Ross picked at something on the sleeve of his shirt and dropped it to the floor with a look of distaste. I think it was meant to represent me.

"There was no reason for Sonny to kill Ollie Watts," I r eplied. "We're talking stolen cars and fake license plates here. Ollie wasn't in a position to scam anything worthwhile from Sonny and he didn't know enough about Sonny's activities to take up ten minutes of a jury's time."

Ross stirred and moved forward to sit on the edge of the table. "Strange that you should turn up after all this time -- what is it? six, seven months? -- and suddenly we're knee deep in corpses," he said, as if he hadn't heard a word I'd said. He was forty, maybe forty-five, but he looked to be in good condition. His face was heavily lined with wrinkles that didn't seem like they came from a life of laughter. I'd heard a little about him from Woolrich, after Woolrich left New York to become the feds' assistant special agent in charge in the New Orleans field office.

There was silence then. Ross tried to stare me out, then looked away in boredom.

"Agent Ross here thinks that you're holding out on us," said Walter. "He'd like to sweat you for a while, just in case." His expression was neutral, his eyes bland. Ross had returned to staring at me.

"Agent Ross is a scary guy. He tries to sweat me, there's no telling what I'll confess to."

"This is not getting us anywhere," said Ross. "Mr. Parker is obviously not cooperating in any way and I -- "

Walter held up a hand, interrupting him. "Maybe you'd both leave us alone for a while, get some coffee or something," he suggested. Barth shrugged and left. Ross remained seated on the table and looked like he was going to say more, then he stood up abruptly and quickly walked out, closing the door firmly behind him. Walter exhaled deeply, loosened his tie, and opened the top button of his shirt.

"Don't dump on Ross. He'll bring a ton of shit down on your head. And on mine."

"I've told you all I know on this," I said. "Benny Low may know more, but I doubt it."

"We talked to Benny Low. The way Benny tells it, he didn't know who the president was until we told him." He twisted a pen in his hand. "'Hey, it's just bidness,' that's what he said." It was a pretty fair imitation of one of Benny Low's verbal quirks. I smiled thinly and the tension in the air dissipated slightly.

"How long you been back?"

"Couple of weeks."

"What have you been doing?"

What could I tell him? That I wandered the streets, that I visited places where Jennifer, Susan, and I used to go together, that I stared out of the window of my apartment and thought about the man who had killed them and where he might be, that I had taken on the job for Benny Low because I was afraid that, if I did not find some outlet, I would eat the barrel of my gun?

"Not a lot. I plan to look up some old stoolies, see if there's anything new."

"There isn't, not at this end. You got anything?"


"I can't ask you to let it go, but -- "

"No, you can't. Get to it, Walter."

"This isn't a good place for you to be right now. You know why."

"Do I?"

Walter tossed the pen hard on the table. It bounced to the edge and then hung there briefly before dropping to the floor. For a moment I thought he was going to take a swing at me but then the anger went from his eyes.

"We'll talk about this again."

"Okay. You going to give me anything?" Among the papers on the table, I could see reports from Ballistics and Firearms. Five hours was a pretty short time in which to get a report. Agent Ross was obviously a man who got what he wanted.

I nodded at the report. "W hat did Ballistics say about the bullet that took out the shooter?"

"That's not your concern."

"Walter, I watched the kid die. The shooter took a pop at me and the bullet went clean through the wall. Someone's got distinctive taste in weaponry."

Walter stayed silent.

"No one picks up hardware like that without someone knowing," I said. "You give me something to go on, maybe I might find out more than you can."

Walter thought for a minute and then flicked through the papers for the Ballistics report. "We got submachine bullets, five-point-seven millimeters, weighing less than fifty grains."

I whistled. "That's a scaled-down rifle round, but fired from a handgun?"

"The bullet is mainly plastic but has a full-metal jacket, so it doesn't deform on impact. When it hits something -- like your shooter -- it transfers most of its force. There's almost no energy when it exits."

"And the one that hit the wall?"

"Ballistics reckons a muzzle velocity of over two thousand feet per second."

That was an incredibly fast bullet. A Browning 9 millimeter fires bullets of one hundred ten grains at only eleven hundred feet per second.

"They also reckon that this thing could blow through Kevlar body armor like it was rice paper. At two hundred yards, the thing could penetrate almost fifty layers." Even a .44 Magnum will only penetrate body armor at very close range.

"But once it hits a soft target..."

"It stops."

"Is it domestic?"

"No, Ballistics say European. Belgian. They're talking about something called a Five-seveN -- that's big F, big N, after the manufacturers. It's a prototype made by FN Herstal for antiterrorist and hostage rescue operations, but this is the first time one has turned up outside national security forces."

"You contacting the maker?"

"We'll try, but my guess is we'll lose it in the middlemen."

I stood up. "I'll ask around."

Walter retrieved his pen and waved it at me like an unhappy schoolteacher lecturing the class wise guy. "Ross still wants your ass."

I took out a pen and scribbled my cell phone number on the back of Walter's legal pad.

"It's always on. Can I go now?"

"One condition."

"Go on."

"I want you to come over to the house tonight."

"I'm sorry, Walter, I don't make social calls anymore."

He looked hurt. "Don't be an asshole. This isn't social. Be there, or Ross can lock you in a cell till doomsday for all I care."

I stood up to leave.

"You sure you've told us everything?" he asked to my back.

I didn't turn around. "I've told you all I can, Walter."

Which was true, technically at least.

Twenty-four hours earlier, I had found Emo Ellison. Emo lived in a dump of a hotel on the edge of East Harlem, the kind where the only guests allowed in the rooms are whores, cops, or criminals. A Plexiglas screen covered the front of the super's office, but there was no one inside. I walked up the stairs and knocked on Emo's door. There was no reply but I thought I heard the sound of a hammer cocking on a pistol.

"Emo, it's Bird. I need to talk."

I heard footsteps approach the door.

"I don't know nothin' about it," said Emo, through the wood. "I got nothin' to say."

"I haven't asked you anything yet. C'mon, Emo, open up. Fat Ollie's in trouble. Maybe I can do something. Let me in."

There was silence for a moment and then the rattle of a chain. The door opened and I stepped inside. Emo had retreated to the wind ow but he still had the gun in his hand. I closed the door behind me.

"You don't need that," I said. Emo hefted the gun once in his hand and then put it on a bedside cabinet. He looked more comfortable without it. Guns weren't Emo's style. I noticed that the fingers of his left hand were bandaged. I could see yellow stains on the tips of the bandages.

Emo Ellison was a thin, pale-faced, middle-aged man who had worked on and off for Fat Ollie for five years or so. He was an average mechanic but he was loyal and knew when to keep his mouth shut.

"Do you know where he is?"

"He ain't been in touch."

He sat down heavily on the edge of the neatly made bed. The room was clean and smelled of air freshener. There were one or two prints on the walls, and books, magazines, and some personal items were neatly arrayed on a set of Home Depot shelves.

"I hear you're workin' for Benny Low. Why you doin' that?"

"It's work," I replied.

"You hand Ollie over and he's dead, that's your work," said Emo.

I leaned against the door.

"I may not hand him over. Benny Low can take the loss. But I'd need a good reason not to."

The conflict inside him played itself out on Emo's face. His hands twisted and writhed over each other and he looked once or twice at the gun. Emo Ellison was scared.

"Why did he run, Emo?" I asked softly.

"He used to say you were a good guy, a stand-up guy," said Emo. "That true?"

"I don't know. I don't want to see Ollie hurt, though."

Emo looked at me for a time and then seemed to make a decision.

"It was Pili. Pili Pilar. You know him?"

"I know him." Pili Pilar was Sonny Ferrera's right-hand man.

"He used to come once, twice a month, never more than that, and take a car. He'd keep it for a couple of hours, then bring it back. Different car each time. It was a deal Ollie made, so he wouldn't have to pay off Sonny. He'd fit the car with false plates and have it ready for Pili when he arrived.

"Last week, Pili comes, collects a car, and drives off. I came in late that night, 'cause I was sick. I got ulcers. Pili was gone before I got there.

"Anyway, after midnight I'm sittin' up with Ollie, talkin' and stuff, waitin' for Pili to bring back the car, when there's this bang outside. When we get out there, Pili's wrapped the car around the gate and he's lying on the wheel. There's a dent in the front, too, so we figure maybe Pili was in a smash and didn't want to wait around after.

"Pili's head is cut up bad where he smacked the windshield and there's a lot of blood in the car. Ollie and me push it into the yard and then Ollie calls this doc he knows, and the guy tells him to bring Pili around. Pili ain't movin' and he's real pale, so Ollie drops him off at the doc's in his own car, and the doc insists on packing him off to the hospital 'cause he thinks Pili's skull is busted."

It was all flowing out of Emo now. Once he began the tale he wanted to finish it, as if he could diminish the burden of knowing by telling it out loud. "Anyway, they argue for a while but the doc knows this private clinic where they won't ask too many questions, and Ollie agrees. The doc calls the clinic and Ollie comes back to the lot to sort out the car.

"He has a number for Sonny but there's no answer. He's got the car in back but he doesn't want to leave it there in case, y'know, it's a cop thing. So he calls the old man and lets him know what happened. So the old man tells him to sit tight, he'll send a guy around to take care of it.

"Ollie goes out to move the car out of sight but when he comes back in, he looks worse than Pili. He looks sick and his hands are shakin'. I say to him, 'What's wrong?' but he just tells me to get out and not to tell no one I was there. He won't say nothin' else, just tells me to get goin'.

"Next thing I hear, the cops have raided the place and then Ollie makes bail and disappears. I swear, that's the last heard."

"Then why the gun?"

"One of the old man's guys came by here a day or two back." He gulped. "Bobby Sciorra. He wanted to know about Ollie, wanted to know if I'd been there the day of Pili's accident. I said to him, 'No,' but it wasn't enough for him."

Emo Ellison started to cry. He lifted up his bandaged fingers and slowly, carefully, began to unwrap one of them.

"He took me for a ride." He held up the finger and I could see a ring-shaped mark crowned with a huge blister that seemed to throb even as I looked at it. "The cigarette lighter. He burned me with the car cigarette lighter."

Twenty-four hours later, Fat Ollie Watts was dead.

Copyright © 1999 by John Connolly

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 131 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2003

    Thrilling, full of suspense and fully satisfying!

    It has been a long time since I've read a book that made me smile, shake my head at the end, and go hmm hmm hmm! Every Dead Thing made me do just that. This was the first book I'd read by Mr. Connolly. I picked the book up because of the title which just happened to catch my eye. It sounded interesting. Then, based on a comparison to Thomas Harris (another of my favorite authors) by (I believe) Stephen King, I bought Every Dead Thing. I was not disapppointed! I immediately bought the other books of Mr. Connolly's with the Charlie Parker character. Charlie reminds me of the Lucas Davenport character in another author's books and although they are alike in some instances, they are totally different in others. I loved Every Dead Thing and wanted to rush to the end of the book to see what was going to happen, but there was too much good stuff going on before getting there. I could not believe the end!! It was a blast!! Mr. Connolly, I'm a fan!

    8 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2009

    Graphic disappointment

    I was very disappointed with this book. I, too, found it difficult to read. It's as if the author had ADD. At times his prose is excellent, but he goes off on too many tangents that aren't related to the plot. The story itself is very gruesome and goes into explicit detail in describing child killings. Definitely not for me. I wouldn't recommend it.

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2013

    Simply great!

    A jackhammer death trip. Way out and wacky.

    3 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2008

    Rare, Gifted Writer

    What a pleasure to discover the Charlie Parker series. Mr. Connolly's writing comes from a depth of soul and insight that I have rarely found. These books stay with the reader due to the multi layers in the stories. Among the best of the genre.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2004

    An Awesome Book

    This book is truly awesome. The characters are believable and stick with you long after you finish the book. Give yourself plenty of time to read once you pick it up (you will not put it down), and do not read it right before you want to go to bed.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2013

    Really good read!

    I enjoyed the book which actually had two stories in one. You're pulled in trying to figure out who killed his family, then suddenly there is another mystery to solve. This book wason the 2.99 and under list and it was well worth the money! I will continue to read the Charlie Parker series.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 24, 2014

    Worth Reading!

    This is a well written mystery by one of the big names in the genre. John uses graphic description, great characters, and an engaging writing style to keep you turning the pages. Recommended!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2014

    Excellent writing

    Good story and characters. World class prose

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2012

    Oh my goodness was this a good book. Your adrenaline starts surg

    Oh my goodness was this a good book. Your adrenaline starts surging from chapter one and doesn't stop until the very last page of this book
    You will never guess who the killer is. Connolly has a great way of twisting and turning plots. He is a master at
    Writing about evil people and the gruesome crimes they committ. I read two of his books in four days because I was 
    So pulled into the stories. Starting number three tonight! 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2012

    Too graphic

    Enough dead boies for ten novels

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 4, 2011


    Sorry it just didn't do a thing for me & I LOVE a good mystery

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2001

    Not impressed...

    Maybe I'm a tough critic but I found the writing to be dark and difficult to follow. I realize that the subject is not a light one but the entire story seemed disjointed and nightmarish. I was very disappointed.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 10, 2015

    Good story but difficult to read.

    I found there were details in the book that were unnecessary making the plot drag.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 6, 2015

    First Novel That's Well Worth Your Time

    Although this is far from a perfectly written book, it is worth reading to understand Charlie Parker who has been the featured detective in John Connolly's popular series for more than a decade. I found it uneven and sometimes confusing, but I also thought much of the book was very well written and it held my interest to the end. I would recommend this book, and I expect to read others in the series.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 28, 2014

    Not who I thought it was . . .

    I had a senior moment when I ordered this book. I thought it was a new thread for Michael Connelly instead. I read it through and it held my attention, but don't think I need to continue the series.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2014



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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2014

    445 pages

    This book is a great length. It is long enough to get to know the characters, but not so long as to become boring or aggravating. I liked the details, although at times they were a little gruesome. The plot had a great concept, although, I wonder why all investigators, no matter if police, detectives, PIs, from which branch of service or private, must have a tragedy or three in their lives, going around with them as obvious and heavy as a pocketfull of change. This book has some pretty adult topics and should not be read by anyone younger than 17. I think John Connelly has a split personality or several and they all wrote different parts of this book. Sometimes the wording was absolute perfection, bringing the reader into the book as if they were one of the characters. Sometimes the writing was so poorly done, it was if a tween working on an ad for something they know nothing about and did not care to research had taken a turn. At times the writing seemed almost feminine as well. Odd. I would give this author try, as this is his first book, even if it is just to see what the writing us like.


    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2014


    Why? Need one ask?

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2014

    At last the true stiry book was written by a commirree

    Or a really splintered psycho

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2014

    Not for the faint of heart.....

    Sometimes the detail is almost a bit too explicit. This is a book that required some perserverence for me to finish. Lurid details of ugly murders at times are almost overpowering. Author John Connelly appears to have done a great amount of research in preparing to write this frightening tale.

    J M Lydon

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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