Connolly, John - Every Dead Thing
EVERY DEAD THING, published to high acclaim and a Shamus Award winner, is a dark American style hard-boiled thriller. Be aware that it contains gruesome and disturbing depictions of murder scenes.
New York police detective Charlie 'Bird' Parker returns home from a regular heavy drinking session to find the bodies of his wife and young daughter. Both have been blinded and further mutilated. After two weeks, the case dries up, the killer having left no clue to his identity and all the police have to go on is a profile from psychologist Rachel Wolfe. Bird, guilty that he was drunk that night and not there to protect his family, leaves the city, following up any leads and rumours he can find. Some months later, one of Bird's few friends, FBI Agent Woolrich, invites Bird to New Orleans where they visit a local matriarch, Tante Marie, who has second sight. Tante Marie says she has 'seen' another victim of the man they seek, the killer known as 'The Travelling Man'. The body of the victim, a young woman, is believed hidden in the bayou, impossible to find. Again there is nothing pointing to the murderer.
No nearer to finding the Travelling Man, Bird returns to New York where he's hired to retrieve a petty crook who has skipped bail. Through this case Bird meets up with his ex-colleague and friend Walter Cole. As a favour to Cole, Bird agrees to work for Elizabeth Barton to find her son's missing girlfriend, Catherine Demeter. Bird wants to save Catherine from danger so he can atone for his failure to save his family.
Around a quarter of the book revolves around the search for Catherine and the subsequent solving of a thirty year old crime. This part of the book is thematically rather than directly related to what follows: both cases involve the death of children, but different people are responsible. The resolution of this case gives Bird the self-belief that he will find his family's killer.
The search for The Travelling Man begins in earnest when Bird is called back to New Orleans by Tante Marie's daughter and en route receives a message in his mind from Tante Marie herself, saying that the Travelling Man has returned. To help with the investigation, Rachel Wolfe, together with Bird's friends Angel and Louis, a pair of gay hitmen, join Bird in New Orleans. Rachel begins to determine what the Travelling Man is trying to tell his audience through the meticulous arrangement of the bodies, whilst Bird, Angel and Louis become embroiled in a local turf war when a gang member is murdered by The Travelling Man.
This is an action packed and violent book, containing a high body count and a number of gun battles: Bird has brushes with organised crime both in New York and New Orleans. Bird is a flawed hero who elicits the reader's sympathy as well as smiles from his wisecracks. The narrative is descriptive and littered with interesting facts, which adds to the atmosphere. Character-wise, Angel and Louis are the standouts, making an engaging but definitely dangerous couple. I found this an engrossing read and after I've given Bird a short holiday to recover, I will be returning to him in DARK HOLLOW.
Karen Meek, England