Book review: The Instruments of Darkness by John Connolly

Sunday, April 28, 2024 Permalink

I started reading The Instruments of Darkness by John Connolly and had one thought: “OMFG!” His opening paragraph, his phrasing, his over-use of metaphors, whip-smart prose and witty narration… I was blown-away.

Very weirdly – I discovered that I have never read anything by Connolly in past (unless it was pre-2011 when I started tracking my reading in Goodreads). I mean, I’ve heard of Connolly obviously, and his Charlie Parker series but I’m agog that this was my first of his books. Which is probably why I had no idea that this series (or perhaps his work in general) has a supernatural undercurrent.

Book review: The Instruments of Darkness by John ConnollyThe Instruments of Darkness
by John Connolly
Series: Charlier Parker #21
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
on 30/04/2024
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Crime Fiction
ISBN: 1529391881
Pages: 453

In Maine, Colleen Clark stands accused of the worst crime a mother can the abduction and possible murder of her child. Everyone—ambitious politicians in an election season, hardened police, ordinary folk—has an opinion on the case, and most believe she is guilty.

But most is not all. Defending Colleen is the lawyer Moxie Castin, and working alongside him is the private investigator Charlie Parker, who senses the tale has another twist, one involving a husband too eager to accept his wife’s guilt, a group of fascists arming for war, a disgraced psychic seeking redemption, and an old, twisted house deep in the Maine woods, a house that should never have been built.

A house, and what dwells beneath.

The supernatural thing was a bit of a surprise as I don’t read books books featuring supernatural elements – or fantasy or science fiction. I have no desire to read about other worlds. However, thankfully Connolly has his characters unsure of what it is they’re experiencing, so I liked that sense of realism (and that is wasn’t TOO fantasical). I also appreciated that the main supernatural element here is in the form of evil and – in reality – the plot works without it, and with it, well… I guess it makes excuses for the behaviour of some. (So I kinda ignored that it existed!)

The only other thing I struggled with in this book is that Connolly references and introduces characters who I assumed to be long-term foes of Parker – here gun-runners cum doomsday-preppers and QAnon types. That threw me and overcomplicated the plot when it didn’t need it as the main story around the boy’s disappearance worked well and was sufficiently complex. It meant the book was about 100 pages longer than I prefer. Also, those thugs are kinda dealt with here so I thought perhaps they weren’t recurring villains or part of a bigger story arc after all.

All of that aside, I loved this book and am thinking I now need to go and read all of the previous books in this series. Parker reminds me a little of my fave gumshoe – Robert B Parker’s Spenser but though Parker’s writing shone through Spenser snappy repartee, here Connolly seems to effortlessly unfurl magic in his prose. I was smitten from the opening paragraph.

Moxie Castin was easy to underestimate, but only on first impression. He was overweight by the equivalent of a small child, didn’t use one word in public when five others were loitering nearby with nothing better to do, and had a taste for ties with patterns reminiscent of the markings of poisonous insects or the nightmares of LSD survivors. p 1

Clever… and elsewhere tautly elegant.

A woman’s pale face peered out at me, and I saw something familiar in it, like the spirit of someone I’d once known passing briefly through the body of another. Grief calls to grief, pain will find its echo, and sorrow, for all its idioms, is a universal language…

The sense of loss was suffocating. p 15

I liked Parker but am obviously missing a lot of backstory which I need to rectify. We meet several of his erstwhile colleagues here as well, who I’m assuming he calls on for assistance often. I enjoyed the way this ultimately plays out with the investigation itself taking some surprising turns. The full story isn’t exactly confirmed but enough, so that we’re ultimately satisfied. And a little horrified as well.

The Instruments of Darkness by John Connolly will be published in Australia by Hachette in late April 2024.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.


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