Even after nearly being killed, trouble refuses to leave detective Charlie Parker alone. In A Song of Shadows, the thirteenth book in John Connolly’s series featuring Parker, the detective has gone to a remote town in northern Maine to recuperate from his near fatal shooting in the last book, The Wolf in Winter. The series began as a better-than-average moody private detective series, but it wasn’t long before Connolly introduced subtle supernatural elements to his series. In A Song of Shadows, it becomes more clear than ever that Parker’s family has something out of the ordinary in their bloodline. Parker himself has always been attuned to traces of evil in the world and can see ghosts in his dreams. His daughter, only six, is starting to show signs that she’s got an even more spectacular gift. I’m getting ahead of myself.
It seems that every small, remote town in Maine has a dark secret (at least as far as the series’ mythos goes). As one can tell from the cover, the dark secret in Boreas, Maine, involves the Nazis somehow. Parker and his friends have no inkling of this when they pick Boreas for its location. Parker’s lawyer rents him a house on a sound that’s even more removed from the beaten path. He only has two neighbors: a fearful woman and her daughter. The woman, Ruth, refuses to answer Parker’s questions. Parker is willing to let it go, for a while. He might have been able to stay out of Ruth’s affairs if Ruth hadn’t been the target of a campaign to keep her quiet by the most gruesome means.
The mystery has its origins in the last days of World War II, but the crime proper starts with a man who washed up on a beach near Boreas. It looks like a suicide or an accident. Boreas’ police chief was ready to sign off on the death when Parker sticks his nose in. There are things that don’t add up. Of course, we already know that something is up. Connolly interrupts Parker’s narrative to show us Steiger, an assassin who works for one of Parker’s old enemies. Steiger and his boss aren’t after Parker. The people who paid Steiger and his boss aren’t after Parker, either. All they want is to keep a secret from leaking.
At the end of the Second World War, hundreds—if not thousands—of Nazis war criminals escaped Europe. Some were eventually captured. Some died before they could be taken into custody. And a few have managed to escape detection only to be found when they were so old that it became a farce to prosecute them. A group of men in the last category are holding out in northern Maine. It was just bad luck (their bad luck) that they were found out. None of them is willing to turn themselves in. A couple of them are even proud of what they did. All this slowly starts to come out as Parker asks questions.
A Song of Shadows has a big event in the middle that divides the book. Up to that turning point, Parker is a bystander. After the event, Parker actively stakes himself out as bait to draw the old Nazis and their protectors out into the open where Parker can get them. This is the key difference between Parker and most other private detectives. Most of the detectives I’ve seen in fiction work within the system, more or less. They try to get the bad guys caught and justice served in an official way. Parker seeks justice, but he’s much more likely to deal it out himself.
The…villains seems too soft a word…evil men that Parker comes across are the kind that are hard to convict. If they can be convicted, any sentence will be too light for their crimes. They are the kind of people who need to be taken out of the world immediately, before they can destroy anyone else. In the world Connolly created, there are agents of evil and agents of good—though not depicted in such stark terms. Rather, there are agents who cause harm and violence and death and there are people who stop them from continuing. Parker brings necessary vengeance. What I like about this series is how it shows us this grittier, more realistic struggle.
I received a free copy of this ebook from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. It will be released 29 September 2015.