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Every Dead Thing    by John Connolly order for
Every Dead Thing
by John Connolly
Order:  USA  Can
Pocket, 2000 (1999)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

It's hard to like Charlie ('Bird') Parker at the beginning of this story. He's an alcoholic who's off boozing at the local bar while a serial killer murders and mutilates his young wife and frail 3 year old daughter. But Bird grows on you. His anguish is revealed subtly in flashbacks and through his subsequent actions. He stops drinking, leaves the police force and becomes obsessed with finding the killer.

This hero has a dark side and is comfortable on the fringes of society. He is distrusted by past peers in the police force because of rumors of ruthless vigilante actions taken since he resigned. His closest (and very loyal) friends, Angel and Louis, are a thief and a killer for hire, partnered in a homosexual relationship. Bird is tormented by memories and dreams. Yet he arouses the reader's interest and sympathy, more than a less flawed (and thus less human) character would do.

Bird's quest for vengeance sets him on the trail of a different serial killer with links to a prominent mob family. This one had tortured and killed children over a span of thirty years. Parker is driven to attempt to save a woman who has disappeared - the sister of one of these early victims. He is haunted by his inability to help her as much as by his own family's deaths.

His family's murderer, the Traveling Man, tortures Bird with recordings of his daughter's voice and worse. The action moves South when a New Orleans psychic leads Parker to the probability of other victims. Along the way, he gradually embarks on a new relationship with Rachel Wolfe, an attractive criminal psychologist and skilled profiler, and one of the few people capable of understanding his state of mind. Biblical references from the Traveling Man's phone calls provide critical clues that Rachel helps to decipher.

The action moves very fast and Bird continues to battle his own demons as well as the demons that he is pursuing. His propensity for violence disturbs those close to him. He becomes closer to Rachel but also pulls her into situations that damage their developing relationship. The ending is a major betrayal and a big surprise to both Parker and the reader.

This is Connolly's first novel and a remarkable achievement, up there with Kathy Reichs, Patricia Cornwell and Jeffery Deaver's best works. A literate and absorbing story full of action, in which a multi-dimensional and very human hero fights the worst kind of monsters. I look forward to more from this author, and to the inevitable movie.

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