A Game of Ghosts

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Reviewed by: Tom Muckian

Tom Muckian

Charlie Parker first appeared in John Connolly’s debut novel Every Dead Thing almost 20 years ago. Seventeen books later , Parker is still going strong, older, wiser and still ably supported by Louis and Angel. One of the strengths of the Parker series is the author’s ability to infuse his novels with a sense of supernatural dread. Some of the novels, The Reapers for example make little or no reference to this supernatural undercurrent and work perfectly well without it. Connolly himself has said that he is often criticized by detective fiction purists for mixing genres as he does, but for this reviewer it is one of the strongest elements of the series. The good news is that A Game of Ghosts is one of the best so far. It’s a cracking piece of detective fiction in its own right but also steps up the supernatural back-story a notch or two.

A Game of Ghosts sees Parker on the hunt for a missing private detective Jaycob Eklund. His investigations bring him into contact with the Brethren a secretive society whose founder Peter Magus has sold their collective souls to the Devil to prevent a final judgement for their sins. At the same time Parker finds his private life in turmoil with his ex partner suing for sole custody of their daughter, Sam.

Reading A Game of Ghosts, it’s hard not to marvel at Connolly’s ability as a writer. By his own admission Connolly didn’t start out to create a supernatural mythology. Connolly, like his protagonist has had the true nature of his destiny, slowly revealed as the series has progressed. All the more impressive then that the different strands of his story lines never feel forced or contrived.  His prose as ever is flawless. The real trick for Connolly will be to maintain the quality of the series as it continues. This is the 17th book in the Parker series, a series which is set almost entirely in Maine. Given the location and the darker themes explored, this reviewer often finds himself thinking of Stephen King while reading the Parker books. King’s 17th novel was IT, subject of a soon to be released (and much anticipated) new film adaptation. IT, is arguably King’s last great novel. He has written may more since then of course, many of them fine in themselves, but none have quite recaptured the brio of his earlier work. The trick for Connolly will be to sustain the quality of the series going forward. On the evidence of A Game of Ghosts its a challenge he’s up for. The role played by his daughter Sam finally feels like its gaining traction. Connolly has teased us before with insights into Parker’s true nature only to step back from it in the next book. There is a real feeling in the last few entries in the series that (supernatural) events are gathering momentum. This reviewer for one can’t wait for the next book.

It’s true to say as with most of the series, that you could read A Game of Ghosts as a standalone thriller, but if you haven’t read the series before, don’t start here. Do yourself a favour and go back to the beginning and start with Every Dead Thing. You won’t regret it.