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The White Road    by John Connolly order for
White Road
by John Connolly
Order:  USA  Can
Atria, 2003 (2003)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I was very impressed by John Connolly's debut with Every Dead Thing and its flawed hero 'Bird' Parker. The White Road is his fourth adventure and he continues to live in a world where evil walks and psychic abilities are fairly common. In fact, this episode moves firmly into supernatural territory and begins to present Parker as a character not unlike John Ross in Terry Brooks' Knight of the Word fantasy trilogy.

The story opens as Parker's criminal sidekicks Louis and Angel exact their own very direct retribution for the past killing of an innocent black man, 'the burning man'. This then sets the scene for a complicated tangle of atrocities (historical and present) and vengeance that eventually draws Parker to South Carolina. This is unfortunate as he has finally made an accomodation with his past, and is content where he is. Parker now lives in Scarborough, Maine with his wife Rachel (met in Every Dead Thing) who is pregnant with their child. They are happy but wary of a threat on the horizon - it looks like the psychotic preacher of a past episode may get bail. The demonic Reverend Aaron Faulkner has already threatened Rachel, and is pulling strings from within his chilly jail cell.

Though this novel's plot is all over the place at the beginning, its threads begin to come together in Charleston, where Parker's old friend Elliot has pressed for his help in the defense of a young black man, Atys Jones, accused of the murder of his white girlfriend. The victim just happens to come from a powerful family, which had a violent past history with the Jones clan, beginning when they were slaveowners and enslaved. Why is a militant racist organization collecting money for Faulkner's defense and bail, and who is the veiled, scaled woman who is exacting a retribution of her own? A crazed old ex-con tells Parker of 'the living and the dead, side by side together on the White Road', as angels of both good and evil walk the world and struggle with each other.

Connolly delivers another spooky, complex suspenseful plot riddled with violence. He deals with the question of why bad things happen to good people - and shows us different kinds of responses to such happenings - with a great deal of empathy. And one of his characters wisely tells us that evil is 'the absence of empathy: from that all evil springs.' The author shows us a world rife with horrors, and a hero who takes responsibility for dealing with them, at the risk of his own loved ones and his own happiness. The White Road is a brilliant and haunting chiller, which left me wondering if I dare open the next volume in this horrific series.

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