Thursday, June 5, 2014

Book Review - The Wolf in Winter

The Wolf in Winter – John Connolly

John Connolly has been one of my favourite authors every since his debut novel. I’ve read all of his books except for his newest series and can honestly say that none of them has been below 8 out of 10. They are of the highest quality and I would recommend them to anyone.

The blurb:

The community of Prosperous, Maine has always thrived when others have suffered. Its inhabitants are wealthy, its children's future secure. It shuns outsiders. It guards its own. And at the heart of the Prosperous lie the ruins of an ancient church, transported stone by stone from England centuries earlier by the founders of the town...

But the death of a homeless man and the disappearance of his daughter draw the haunted, lethal private investigator Charlie Parker to Prosperous. Parker is a dangerous man, driven by compassion, by rage, and by the desire for vengeance. In him the town and its protectors sense a threat graver than any they have faced in their long history, and in the comfortable, sheltered inhabitants of a small Maine town, Parker will encounter his most vicious opponents yet.

Charlie Parker has been marked to die so that Prosperous may survive.

Prosperous, and the secret that it hides beneath its ruins...

“The Wolf in Winter” marks the twelve entry into the Charlie Parker series. As I mentioned above this series has been lagged in the slightest. Connolly also knows how to keep the series fresh.

So often when a series gets to this stage they either become a formulaic or they rely on the secondary characters taking a more prominent role to keep things interesting. Although the Charlie Parker series has a great supporting cast of recurring characters, Connolly has never had to rely on either of these techniques.

Instead it is his prose and storytelling that keeps me coming back. To me the most important thing in a story is the characters and dialogue. Whilst John Connolly has these in abundance, I could read his prose all day long.  He has a way of capturing the atmosphere of a town that is so beautiful it is almost poetic. The descriptions are vivid without being too long and in one sentence he can invoke ideas in you that you had never thought of.
However, this is not the reason the series remains so bright. Connolly’s books contains darkness, psychology, humour and the supernatural. He manages to blend all of these facets seamlessly, sometimes concentrating on one more than others.

In “The Wolf in Winter,” he combines all of the above. It has been a while since Connolly has delved into the supernatural elements with Parker. When he does it feels organic. Some authors hint at ethereal entities in our world but always leave it up to the readers as to whether or not what the characters see is real. Connolly does not shy away from this. The supernatural is very much there and accepted but it is not prominent and thrust down the reader’s throats. In short it is perfectly handled.

The plot focuses on the town of Prosperous. An insular town that whilst it never openly shuns its visitors, it makes it clear they are not welcome. It also contains a sinister secret that Parker is determined to find out.

Parker is his usual self. Driven, confident but with a strong moral compass. It is nice to see a more uneasy side of him in this novel. Whilst he is assured in his abilities as a detective, it is good to see that he is not as secure around his friends as we had previously been led to believe. There is one scene in particular that you realise that the friendship that the reader thought was a given is actually more based on mutual respect and could change at any moment.

The town and residents of Prosperous are great. Morland the police chief is also an excellent character. He strongly believes in the town but also is more open to the strong ethics of outsiders. He might carry out the tasks that need to be done, but he also appreciates the code of others.

I mentioned that Connolly has little difficulty keeping this series fresh. With this novel he manages to go in a new direction with the characters. I won’t expand more as I don’t want to spoil anything but the change in dynamics is well handled and insightful.

The conclusion as a result is satisfying without being hugely impactful. The plot points are all wrapped up nicely but more importantly you get the impression that the series (after twelve excellent books) is only just beginning.

Overall, The Wolf in Winter is an excellent entry to the series and one that will not disappoint fans of Connolly.

My rating: 9.1