A Time of Torment by John Connolly is the 14th novel featuring the paranormal private detective Charlie Parker and like the previous 13, is a gift of literary blood and guts and things that go bump in the night and the flawed heroes who dare to bump right back!
“…Ormsby made people disappear, then watched as those who loved them were left to wonder at their fate. He understood the half-life of hope: it is not despair that destroys us, but its opposite. Hope is the winding, despair the unwinding. Despair brings with it the possibility of an ending. Taken to the extreme, its logical conclusion is death. But hope sustains. It can be exploited…”
“…You know, I think I will have a beer, if it’s okay with you.’
‘What kind?’ asked Parker.
‘Just beer. Any beer. It’ll all taste good.’
Parker called for an ale from the Maine Beer Company. He figured he might as well keep the money local. When it arrived, Burnel took one long mouthful to start, but sipped the rest. By the time he finished telling his story, there was still a little left at the bottom of the glass, and Parker’s coffee had long gone cold. The light in the bar had changed, and the noise level had increased, but none of the four men really noticed, not until the end. By then Louis had joined the group, for Burnel spoke softly, and there was little danger of anyone eavesdropping on them.
A man driving on a dark fall evening, a gas station appearing in the distance: to stop, or to go on. On such decisions were lives saved, lives ended, and lives destroyed…”
Jerome Burnel was a hero. A man who stopped the multiple killings in a gas station by killing the would be murderers. But by that very act he was damned. His life torn to pieces as he was accused of child pornography. The very policemen who had hailed him weeks before now looked upon him with disdain. He was imprisoned, beaten and raped. His life gone.
Now released from prison, in his final days, he tells his story to the private detective Charlie Parker and begs for him to believe in Burnel’s innocence. Before Parker can decide to take the case, Burnel goes missing. The police think he’s simply run from his parole, but Parker believes something very different. He believes that Burnel was innocent of the crimes he was accused of.
Charlie Parker is not like other men. He has died and been reborn. He has had a wife and child taken from him. Murdered viciously by a serial killer, their skinned bodies left for him to find. Charlie Parker is a hunter of men and demons. He is a killer of old Gods and now he has set his sights on those who imprisoned Burnel and the thing they serve. The thing they call the Dead King.
“…So if that nest of bones is old and powerful enough, it will draw to it a malignancy of similar age and power, and then what you have isn’t just a dead king anymore. You’ve given physicality and purpose to something very unpleasant indeed. If Harpur Griffin didn’t misspeak, then he wasn’t just referring to a talismanic object.
He was speaking of an entity…”
Parker’s investigation leads him to a society hidden from the world. A community so close knit that outsiders are not only shunned but driven away at gunpoint. Local law enforcement cannot penetrate them and they control the surrounding area by fear and intimidation. They are called the Cut.
“…There’s a kind of evil that isn’t even in opposition to good, because good is an irrelevance to it. It’s the foulness that’s right at the heart of existence, born with the stuff of the universe. It’s in the decay to which all things tend. It is, and it always will be, but in dying we leave it behind.’
‘And while we’re alive?’
‘We set our souls against it, and our saints and angels too.’ He patted Parker on the shoulder. ‘Especially the destroying ones…’
If this is your introduction to Charlie Parker and the first such novel in the series that you pick up then I envy you some for that. You are about to embark upon a journey that is both thrilling and sickening. The darkness that has enveloped Parker and that he battles will seep slowly into your pores and you will hope and pray that it doesn’t really exist. But you know it does. In that primordial part of your mind that remembers what the world was like before the illusion of civility took over and clouded our eyes. You can start your journey with this book but you will know that there is much more to this story then what you are getting in this one reading. The characters, Parker, Louis, Angel and Parker’s daughters, both living and dead; have scars. Wounds both emotional and physical that run deep. You will see these scars but not know how they got there. But you will want to.
A Time of Torment is a terrific addition to this series and on its own stands. But it is just a glimpse into the bigger world that is the battle between Charlie Parker and the evil that exists only to feed on the rest of us.
Another seriously kick ass book by John Connolly.