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A Book Of Bones
Author: John Connolly
Publisher: Hodder & Stroughton, supernatural mystery
Many popular series suffer from a major problem: they go on for far too long. Even the most compelling characters can be a chore to follow as they face the same sorts of problems over and over again as if trapped in some sort of personal hell.
It is to author John Connolly’s credit, therefore, that his latest offering, A Book Of Bones, does not suffer from this problem. Yes, despite this being the 18th(!) entry of his popular Charlie Parker novels, a number most authors can only dream of achieving. From the time his first book, Every Dead Thing, was published in 1999, Connolly’s supernaturally-charged thrillers remain fresh and exciting.
An 18th outing is definitely cause of celebration, and A Book Of Bones does feel like it’s set on a larger scale than previous books. Parker finds himself going international, with his investigation taking him all over the world, from the forests of Maine to the Mexican border, the canals of Amsterdam and the streets of London.
A series of crimes taking place in sacred locations in England turn out to be connected to old enemies of Parker’s – some of whom may not be completely human. The villains are hunting a mysterious artifact called the Fractured Atlas, which has the power to reshape reality. Parker has to track it down down, with the help of allies both old (hello Louis and Angel!) and new.
A Book Of Bones is a massive read at almost 700 pages. Thankfully, getting through it never feels like a slog. The pace is brisk and smooth and there is always sometimes interesting happening to keep the reader invested. Suspense is aplenty, and there are plenty of twists – there is a particularly clever bit of misdirection about one of the villains that is quite well done.
And while Connolly’s fiction is well done, the factual bits are really fascinating as well; much of the folklore behind many of the places in the novel is real, which only makes the book more entertaining.
That said, A Book Of Bones is perhaps not the place for newcomers to Connolly’s work (then again, the 18th outing is never a good place to start any series!). Much of it can stand alone, but the book does make a lot of references to Parker’s previous adventures.
Another thing about the book is that it features a whole horde of characters, as the author creates a new point of view for almost every situation, making it sometimes hard to track who is who. Most of the characters are interesting and fleshed out well; the problem sometimes is there are so many of them, and, arguably, some chapters could have been cut for a tighter story.
That said, the book features a trio of terrific villains: Mors, Quayle and Sellars are distinct and villainous in their own ways, and certainly stick in the memory.
Diehard fans of Connolly’s characters Parker, Louis and Angel may be slightly disappointed to learn that they don’t have the heaviest focus in this story. A lot of the action is down to a new bunch of characters, the English police investigators Priestman, Hynes and Gawoska, who sometimes feel like secondary protagonists. Again, they are great characters but, occasionally, they make A Book Of Bones feel like two books, one about Parker and the other about these investigators.
And yet, A Book Of Bones is still a terrific read. It cleverly blends classic horror motives, like vengeful ancient gods, with more modern, pressing issues, such as religious extremism, toxic masculinity, and inciteful hate-mongering. Yes, it’s massive size can be intimidating, but it’s length gives an epic scale to Parker’s latest story, allowing it to tackle various interesting characters and issues all at once. No bones about it. (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)