There are a few authors whose novels are my own personal equivalent to comfort food. Stephen King is one; John Connolly is another. Every time I sit down with one of their stories, I know I'm in good hands, and their words bring a certain warmth to my soul. Connolly's Charlie Parker series, in particular, is like a big bowl of beef stew or mac & cheese eaten beside the fireplace and in the company of good friends. Over the course of fourteen novels, I consider Parker, Angel, and Louis very good friends, indeed. And, jeez, do I ever eat up these stories!
Connolly is a superb storyteller, first and foremost. His prose is both simple and elegantly constructed, and although he sometimes wanders off into tangents of both local and personal history for his settings and characters, I certainly don't mind reading those words even if I wonder at the necessity of their inclusion. Would A Time of Torment be better if some tangential segments were shortened? I suspect it wouldn't be by much, frankly, and, for me, it's a bit of the charm Connolly brings to the table. You can tell this man does his research, and he's eager to share what he's learned. And when you tell a story as well as Connolly, well...the more the better, in my opinion. He's a craftsman, and one of the best in the business as far I'm concerned.
As far as A Time of Torment is concerned, I feel a bit of sympathy for readers encountering this author and these characters here for the very first time. This is not a book for the inexperienced, and the Parker novels are very much a Read In Order series. This particular volume builds off the events, story, and character threads established in the prior three Parker thrillers, which themselves are shaped by the supernatural mythology of the preceding volumes. Characters like The Collector and Parker's daughter, Sam, who make brief appearances here will likely leave the uninitiated scratching their head as to their importance. Those who have been around since the beginning, though, will be much more appreciative of their roles in the overarching mythology of the series as a whole. My advice, as always, to anyone who hasn't read Connolly yet is to start from the very beginning with Every Dead Thing.
Plot-wise, Parker is hired by a recently released prisoner, who quickly goes missing. Parker's subsequent investigation brings to his attention a small cult-like community known as The Cut, and their religious idol, The Dead King.
There's echoes of Prosperous, the community featured in The Wolf In Winter, but not so much that it feels like a total retread. There's enough differences in The Cut's actions, history, and characters to differentiate them from Prosperous, and, in some ways, make them a dark mirror reflection of an already nasty bunch. They're darker, and, to a degree, one might even say more primitive. Then again, so, too, is Charlie Parker. It's the events of that prior novel that have helped shape the subtle alterations in Parker's persona and methods. The detective has become a more aggressive hunter, very much so a wolf in his own right. And the Cut is certainly worthy of his particular brand of attention.
A Time of Torment is a bit slower paced than previous installments, but not detrimentally so. If anything, for me, it just means it takes a bit more time to savor and enjoy, and I was left feeling perfectly satiated. Now begins the wait, once more, for the next book...
[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title for review from the publisher via NetGalley.]