Connolly, John - 'The Unquiet'
This is the sixth in Connolly's outstanding series featuring Charlie "Bird" Parker, ex New York detective, sometime Private Investigator. Set in Maine, where Parker is mostly based in these later novels, this outing sees Parker hired by Rebecca Clay. She's being stalked by a man who wants to know where her father is. Her father, Daniel Clay, was a once-respected child psychologist specialising in abused children, who disappeared in mysterious circumstances some years before. Daniel Clay was discredited when he disappeared and suspected of being involved in a paedophile ring. Parker tries to make the stalker, Merrick, go away but he will not be stopped. And soon Parker is trapped between the people who want the truth about Daniel Clay to come out, and those who want it to remain hidden at any cost. All roads appear to lead to Gilead, a mysterious place in Northern Maine where a sect was accused of child abuse years before. What is Clay's connection to the place, where does Merrick fit in, who are mysterious Hollow Men haunting the novel, and who is the hidden force moving all these pawns? Parker needs to find out before he gets sucked any deeper into the mire.
This is a very bleak book, full of despair and loneliness. It seems that Parker is adrift in his life at this point. He's like Canute, trying to push back the tide of evil, and it's unrelenting. A feeling of hopelessness pervades the book, tainting everything that happens, as those working on the side of good in the book are unable to stem the tide of child abuse in the world. There's also a certain lack of resolution - although the main plot is tied up in Connolly's usual impressive style, there is a feeling of dissatisfaction. No one has triumphed in this novel. The battle may have been won but ultimately the war is being lost. Only at the end does Connolly offer us a little hope for Parker.
However, for all that, this is by no means a depressing book. It's well written and contains Connolly's usual gamut of interesting characters, some of whom we have met before like Louis and Angel, and others who are new to this book. I wouldn't recommend this book as a jumping on point for the series, as it does refer a lot to previous books, but taken as a whole this does add considerably to the momentum of the series, moving Parker along in interesting ways. I'm keen to find out what's in store for him next. Maybe Connolly should give the guy a break - Parker could use a little happiness.
Pat Austin, England