Charlie Parker’s quest to rid the world of villains regular law enforcement can’t capture continues in John Connolly’s A Time of Torment. The book opens with a scene that shows us Parker and his allies, assassin Louis and thief Angel, capturing a kidnapper, murderer, and blackmailer and turning him over to the FBI. This scene serves as a reminder of what bigger game that Parker is playing now that he’s returned from the dead, but it’s not part of the main action in the book. Rather, this book is about Parker, with help from his allies, takes down a small, sinister commune in West Virginia that firmly believes itself to be above the law.
The main action of A Time of Torment begins when ex-con Jerome Brunel approaches Parker in a Portland bar. Brunel insists that he was set up. He doesn’t know who put all that child pornography in his house, but he thinks it has something to do with his stopping a robbery at a gas station shortly before his arrest. Brunel gives Parker most of the money he has left and asks the detective to investigate. Brunel also adds that whoever set him up will be coming back to finish the job. Parker has just enough time to start asking some questions before Brunel’s prediction comes true.
While other books in Connolly’s Parker series stick to the detective as he puzzles out the crime and who bears responsibility for it, A Time of Torment bounces around through the perspectives of secondary characters. Through these peripheral characters we learn about the Cut, a reclusive community in West Virginia that everyone for several counties around is afraid to cross. In fact, we learn more about the Cut and its crimes from the secondary characters than we learn from Parker. On the one hand, this technique reveals the broad scope of the Cut’s activities. On the other, it distances us from Parker—so much so that he descends like an avenging angel than like a righteous detective.
I was interested in the villains Connolly created in A Time of Torment, but I miss the tight focus on Parker that we saw in the earlier novels. Now that Parker is something more than entirely human, I want to spend time in his head as he wrestles with his new role as judge, jury, and executioner of criminals that regular law enforcement either can’t detect or can’t provide satisfying justice if they do manage to pick up on one of these evil peoples’ trails. Series fans will still enjoy A Time of Torment; new readers should start from the beginning to get Parker’s whole journey.
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley for review consideration.