After taking a backseat for much of the prior book's narrative, PI Charlie Parker returns as the central focus to A Game of Ghosts. Escaping into the works of John Connolly is always a welcome retreat for me, although this fifteenth entry into this author's eponymous detective series fell a bit flat for me.
Still recovering, and likely permanently diminished, from the attempt on his life a few books back, Parker is back in action and tasked with locating a missing private eye, Jaykob Ecklund. This investigation leads Parker to The Brethren, a familial organization looking to keep its existence secret.
The Brethren also makes this the third book, out of the last four, in which a small, tightly-knit community-type band of sociopaths and psychotics are the central antagonists, following the far more dangerous members of Prosperity, ME from The Wolf In Winter and last year's cultish members of The Cut featured in a A Time of Torment. While there are some cool supernatural aspects behind The Brethren and the psychic visions the females of this line possess, the group are fairly weak villains taken as a whole.
On a narrative front, the story itself is a bit too complicated than is necessary, bulkier than it should be, and more than a smidge unsatisfying in its resolution. Connolly loads in a handful of secondary and tertiary characters, including a whole other subplot about the son of a deceased mob boss looking to make inroads into the heroine trade. Ultimately, this latter is a wholly superfluous addition to a narrative that already's stuffed with questionable motives, a series of homicides that may or may not be related either to one another or even the plot as a whole, and everybody's neighbors.
On the bright side, Connolly does inject a few surprising shake-ups, including the death of well-established character, and a final twist that puts an extra shade of gray on all that preceded it. The writing is grand, even if the story it services may not be the best, and the usual Parker series staples are on hand - good camaraderie, wry observations, witty dialogue, and enough subtle threats to make you feel mobbed up until the final page.
[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.]
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