Monday 24 January 2011

John Connolly: Dark Hollow

john connolly dark hollow review A gun battle between Mafiosi and Cambodian thugs, a dead Fed, a kidnap victim long murdered and a low level but violent criminal on the run with two million dollars -- John Connolly kicks off the second Charlie Parker novel Dark Hollow with a bang. Throw in an old woman shooting herself out of fear of the name of a children's bogeyman and hold on for the ride.

Parker is drawn in through a simple favour - extracting child support from a deadbeat, Billy Purdue. The deadbeat though has the cash that a desperate Mafia boss wants, the cash that a twisted pair of killers want, and behind them comes a name from Parker's history - Caleb Kyle.

Kyle is a semi-mythical creature: possibly implicated in the abduction and murder of young women decades ago, now a name used to frighten children. The reality is that Caleb Kyle never went away - he abducts women to act as breeding stock and he kills those who prove too weak in his perverted view.

Parker's tracking of Purdue has him overlapping Kyle's path, a path marked by casually brutal slayings. There's a darkness about Kyle, a primordial brutality that places him as the antithesis of what we are beginning to see as Parker's crusade against evil and its perpetrators. It's that crusade that lifts Connolly's novels above many others of the genre. Crusade is, I think, the right word. If John Connolly were to set a novel in the days of Richard the Lionheart it would ignore the Christian rhetoric and instead feature the stench of tropical disease and the thud of iron sword against flesh, and give a damn good pen portrait of the desert landscape.

Enough there for a good novel, but as in other work Connolly isn't satisfied. There's still two million dollars to handle, there's the other competitions of contract killers and mafia men. We meet more of Connolly's gross villains, corrupted desires made flesh, and Louis and Angel (see Every Dead Thing) appear more strongly in their search for the contract killers.

As before, Connolly handles the wealth of plot and storylines with great dexterity and has produced another absorbing read. His eye for place and sense of history underpin a novel of invention and excitement. Not a read for the fainthearted but one for those who like their writing good and their blood bright red.


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