On April 15th this year I was lucky enough to grab myself a ticket for an evening with John Connolly, hosted by Waterstones bookstore in my hometown of Newcastle Upon Tyne. This was billed as an event where John would speak for a while and sign copies of his new book A Song of Shadows.
Now – for any fans of John Connolly this type of event would be fantastic to attend. A chance to meet the man behind the legend that is Charlie Parker. Giving that most fans consider Mr Connolly to be a writing legend himself you would half expect some big entourage and fanfare on his arrival. Nope. We were all gathered sitting waiting on the event to start with sweaty palms and expectant glances at the door, watching for a glimpse of the man himself as he arrives with his agent, publisher, hair dresser and chair puller outer, ready to entertain us mere mortals.
All of sudden, when no one noticed anything untoward, this figure calmly wanders up the aisle, by himself, no fanfare, no chair puller outer, just himself with his bag slung over his shoulder as calm and unassuming as you like. He appeared at the front, said welcome as he was taking his coat off and throwing his bag down, and then started to talk about his books. It was mesmerising.
He told us he was going to do something different and start at the very first Charlie Parker book, Every Dead Thing and work his way through each book and try and give us some insight into what influenced each story, the results of some of his research and the occasional funny story along the way.
This man has an aura about him. I don’t know what it is but when you listen to him speak you are in total awe one moment, laughing with him the next and then thinking what a totally normal guy he is the next.
I honestly wish I had videoed the talk. It was just superb.
So at the end we had the signing of the books. When it was my turn I had a question to ask him. When I started to talk it didn’t quite work because my tongue was stuck to the roof of my mouth. I mentioned to him that I had emailed him a few months ago to ask for an interview for my blog. Before I got any further he stopped signing my book and looked panicked and apologetically asked me did he forget to do it. What a guy. I told him no I hadn’t sent the questions to him yet but went for the kill and asked would he be up to a quick video interview with me. Absolutely no problem he said. Just wait over there and when I’m done signing we will do it.
Now – I went to where he indicated and once I got my breath back I decided to set up. At this point I was really hoping he wouldn’t laugh at my totally professional video recording equipment – a mobile phone attached to a selfie stick attached to a mini tripod so I could stand it on the table and not have to deal with my hands shaking so it didn’t look like a video shot on a CCTV camera during an earthquake.
We didn’t have much time and I didn’t want to upset royalty such as him so I ignored the rubbish questions I had written down and started to explain my blog. I explained it was called Confessions of a Reviewer and in all interviews I had done previously (didn’t tell him it was only two) the other authors had answered my “Ten Confessions” questions and asked would it be ok to go with those. Without hesitation he said “Yeah let’s do it”.
What followed next will probably go down as one of my greatest reviewing / blogging achievements. It’s 7 minutes 14 seconds I will never ever forget. I apologise for my voice. It may sound weird. I was excited and felt as if I hadn’t had a drink in fourteen years of trekking through a desert.
The review of A Song of Shadows follows below the video.
Enjoy. I sure as hell did!
Genre: Crime / Mystery / Thriller / Horror
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication Date: 9th April 2015
A lot of my reviews recently have been of books written by people I have never heard of. I absolutely love finding new authors and being able to share what they do. Every year though, in April, I look forward to one thing happening. The next Charlie Parker instalment. A Song of Shadows is John Connolly’s 13th (some, including me, would argue 14th) book about the life of ex-cop / ex private investigator / ex loads of other things, Charlie Parker. I always look forward to it coming out. I’ve just finished it. Now I’m depressed again because I’ve probably got another year to wait on the next one. The highs and lows of being in total awe of this man’s writing!
Charlie Parker is recovering from his near fatal shooting in his own home. He is recuperating in a rented house in the small Maine town of Boreas. He befriends his troubled neighbour Ruth Winter and her daughter Amanda. Ruth is frightened. Parker doesn’t know why but he has a feeling it has something to do with a body that has just washed up on a beach.
The body has some interesting connections. It looks like the man was a hunter. A hunter of Nazi war criminals. A series of events that follow once again entrap Parker in a situation he just can’t let go of. While trying to recover from his injuries and deal with ghosts of his past and present, he sets out to help figure out decades old connections and get to the bottom of what actually happened in a place called Lubsko during WWII and more importantly, who can answer for the crimes.
Now before I start in earnest, I will confess, the Charlie Parker series is probably my all-time favourite. Ever. Period. The End. To which end my review could probably read like this – Loved it. Buy it. The end. Now that I am a “blogger” (is that how you say it? Bloggite? Bloggist?) and reviewer, my true objective self must come out. OK then, honesty rules.
If you are looking for an old school Parker novel where he runs all over the country in a high energy show that is full of high octane chases and huge blockbuster explosions, this is not it. Is that a disappointment? In a way it is yes but you got to remember, the man is recovering after nearly being killed.
What do we have then? It’s beautiful. Ab-so-lutely beautiful.
A Wolf in Winter was super powerful. When it ended, I think everyone knew that times were going to change for Parker. He was going to change as a person. His priorities, lifestyle and commitments would change. A Song of Shadows doesn’t possess the same type of “power” that Wolf did but it is immensely powerful in its own unique way. Not so much of the supernatural but, reading between the lines, it sets us up perfectly for the continuing story. Very moving at times and also quite harrowing this is definitely slower paced but in a way it’s a welcome break.
Most stories that are in a series where the “hero” has been badly injured in the last book, start the following book where he or she is fully recovered and raring to complete three triathlons in a week and save the world while he is tightrope walking across the Grand Canyon eating doughnuts. This doesn’t. Parker’s injuries still have him mostly incapacitated. I loved this. It slows the whole pace of the story right down and makes us realise that he isn’t super human or immortal after all. Or is he? Connolly’s writing just sucks you in. From page one the book just makes you feel like you’re wrapped in your favourite jumper, snuggled on your favourite seat with not a care in the world and no desire to do anything other than finish the book in one sitting. It is virtually impossible to put down.
As for the rest of the characters in this one – a lot of old favourites come back. It wouldn’t be the same without Angel and Louie. Thankfully they haven’t changed one bit. Louie is still as cool, calm and collected as he was before. Angel is……well he is Angel. They are characters that should never ever be excluded from Connolly’s books. FBI agent Ross is back as is MCU man Walsh. You will also recognise other faces as well that Parker has met on his extensive travels including two that will make you laugh out loud when they appear.
You may have noticed I haven’t told you about the story? I don’t want to. I don’t want to spoil it for you.
OK then. When a body is found on a beach it looks like suicide. Some more bodies show up and all of a sudden it looks like they could be connected. Parker gets drawn into it as normal and is soon into it up to his neck. It centres on the German community in and around Boreas and particularly some individuals who may or may not have been involved with war crimes in WWII. Once again Connolly shows he isn’t scared to write about events or storylines that have proved controversial or painful in the past, present or future.
I could go onnnnnn and onnnnnnnn. This is what I would call a “link” book. A Wolf in Winter was a Powerball of a story that could have gone either way in the end. A Song of Shadows slows the pace and I suppose could sort of stand by itself. Until the end. What Mr Connolly does to us in the last chapter verges on the criminal. You will read the last paragraph in this book with your jaw trailing the floor. You will close the book and your jaw will still be trailing the floor. When you gather yourself again, you will curse Mr Connolly for leaving you hanging. You will be unbelievably excited at the prospect of what could be coming next in the story. You will probably join me, rocking in the corner, totally depressed that you have to wait probably another year for the next part.
If you haven’t read any in this series then I triple urge you to get started with Every Dead Thing and join the millions of us in the John Connolly fan club. If you have been following the series then you must must must get A Song of Shadows. You will not be disappointed
Come one John! Get writing!!
★★★★★ Couldn't be anything less. Buy it!
You can buy A Song of Shadows here:
You can pre-order A Song of Shadows here:
Still recovering from his life-threatening wounds, private detective Charlie Parker investigates a case that has its origins in a Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War.
Parker has retreated to the small Maine town of Boreas to regain his strength. There he befriends a widow named Ruth Winter and her young daughter, Amanda. But Ruth has her secrets. Old atrocities are about to be unearthed, and old sinners will kill to hide their sins. Now Parker is about to risk his life to defend a woman he barely knows, one who fears him almost as much as she fears those who are coming for her.
His enemies believe him to be vulnerable. Fearful. Solitary.
But they are wrong. Parker is far from afraid, and far from alone.
For something is emerging from the shadows . . .
John Connolly was born in Dublin in 1968. His debut -EVERY DEAD THING - swiftly launched him right into the front rank of thriller writers, and all his subsequent novels have been Sunday Times bestsellers. He is the first non-American writer to win the US Shamus award. (For Every Dead Thing). In 2007 he was awarded the Irish Post Award for Literature.
You can see more of John at his website.
John’s author page can be found here.