The Woman In The Woods by John Connolly
The troubled Maine private detective, Charlie Parker, is hired by a friendly lawyer to investigate the discovery of a woman’s body in remote woodland. On a tree, close to the corpse, a Star of David is found carved into the bark. Parker believes that it indicates someone who was trying to show respect for the dead woman, probably Jewish, after her hasty interment 5 years previous. Forensics find out that she had given birth shortly before her death. Of the baby, now a five-year-old, there is no sign. Parker is urgently trying to locate the child.
There are spoilers to follow.
Meanwhile, Charlie’s good friend, Angel, is fighting his own battle. He’s in hospital having undergone treatment for cancer. Angel’s lover and partner, the hit man, Louis, is at a loss to understand how to handle the circumstances. He decides to throw himself into helping Parker. Unfortunately, Louis has a short temper and when he encounters a pick-up truck emblazoned with a Confederate flag, Louis decides to take matters into his own hands. He torches it. It subsequently emerges that the vehicle belongs to the son of a notorious white supremacist who has means. The impulsive actions of Louis will come back to haunt both Parker and his hit man friend.
Quayle is a strange one. He’s got a stiff English accent, little patience and no humanity. In fact, he’s not human at all. He has lived for a very long time and taken many lives. He has no memory of his early life, coming into being as an adult. His life’s work is to find the hidden pieces of an ancient book known as The Atlas. This tome, when fully assembled, has the power to end the entire universe thereby releasing Quayle from the existence that he hates. He’s tired and wants it all to end. Sounds like a bit of a whiner for a demon, if that’s what he is.
This cold-hearted killer is accompanied by Mors, a female human with even less compassion than he has. Mors is a truly awful creature who delights in inflicting pain on any who cross her path. Whilst Quayle is ambivalent to death and destruction, Mors revels in it. She also likes to get a shag every now and then from her devilish companion. Why is it that girls always seem to go for the bad boys? I mean, come on! A demon! What future is there in that? She should have listened to her mother.
Together the two brutes are following the same path that Parker has set out on as they try to locate the missing child. Quayle believes that the young one will lead him to the missing pages of the book he seeks to reform. Parker is oblivious to this and is merely doing what he believes is right. All of this is of great concern for Holly Weaver, mother to five-year-old Daniel. Holly has seen the news reports on the discovery of the woman. She is worried that the authorities and perhaps even others, will come for her and her adopted son. Daniel, meanwhile, has his own problems. He is being haunted by a woodland creature claiming to be his real mother. It’s all very confusing for a small boy who wants to be an astronaut when he grows up.
Parker eventually crosses paths with the spooky Quayle. It’s a memorable encounter for both, not least as Parker sees a very disturbing child-like demonic creature that seems to follow Quayle around. The depiction of the entity may be unsettling for the reader. It’s not long before Parker, himself a person with certain gifts, realises that he’s dealing with forces of a supernatural nature. Louis doesn’t care what he’s dealing with. He just wants to kill someone to help forget, if even for a time, what Angel is going through and how life would be without him. It all makes for an interesting dynamic.
Quayle has enlisted the assistance of The Backers, a shady group of occultists who are searching for something known as The Buried God. This terrible entity is their very own Satan, and the world in which they operate has accordingly provided them with wealth and power. They are callous, greedy and vile, but as much as they claim (secretly) to want to bring their deity to this world, it appears to Quayle that they are merely going through the motions. Quayle has, correctly, assessed their motivations and realised that The Backers have no intention of following through with their stated plan as they enjoy life as it is too much. Nor do The Backers wish Quayle to succeed in reconstituting The Atlas. Why would they? They currently have it all and will allow nothing to disturb or end their glorious existences. Friction between The Backers and Quayle is sure to ensue. Toss in Parker and his allies and you have the ingredients for a thrilling book.
The Woman In The Woods (2018) is the latest in the Charlie Parker series. As much as Rebel Voice does not appreciate John Connolly or his Irish political view-point, it must be admitted that this is one of the best series on the go at the minute. The character list is impressive in each episode. They are all fully formed and of consequence and, for the most part, sit well together. The plot-line of The Backers is an ongoing one but Quayle and Mors are new. Various other assassins and supernatural characters in this saga have been killed off over the years but it has only intensified enjoyment of the overall story. Sadly, of all the Charlie Parker novels, this one is the weakest.
Rebel Voice has noticed that the longer some series continue, the poorer the standard of work. It’s almost as if the author gets bored with their own creation and runs out of either motivation or creativity. The Woman In The Woods has that feel about it. We have to wonder if John Connolly is running out of steam. Story-lines such as this one can only go on for so long before they become staid. Although the Parker plots have great variety and potential, there comes a point when the end must be brought forth. The same could be said for Jack Reacher.
Having said all of this, the series is at such a high level of entertainment that it can afford to drop some and still be a decent read. That’s where Rebel Voice sees The Woman In The Woods. If you are interested in getting into this story, then this is not the best place to start as it will not impress in the way that the others will. However, if you are already invested in Charlie Parker, Angel and Louis, then this novel may disappoint but only marginally. With any luck, Connolly will put a bit more effort into the next novel or two and bring the series to a climatic and thrilling end. The character that is Charlie Parker deserves nothing less than Connolly’s best. So do the fans.
Sult scale rating: 7.5 out of 10. This is not one of the best in the Charlie Parker series. It is probably the worst. Yet it is still a pretty good read and will provide much for fans to think about. The series is starting to seem a little stretched though with this slightly poorer offering from an author capable of much better.
Here is another in the series: