Category: Archive

Book Review Bodies bagged in the Maine woods

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Dylan Foley

DARK HOLLOW, by John Connolly. Simon and Schuster. 445 pp. $25.

Charlie "Bird" Parker is a disgraced ex-NYPD cop who has fled New York City to his hometown in rural Maine to escape the memory of his murdered wife and child. But Bird can’t escape trouble. He tries to help a battered woman, which pulls Bird into a vortex of murder and mob violence in the eerie northern woods and the incredible evil it holds.

John Connolly, a journalist for the Irish Times, has written "Dark Hollow," a taut and menacing thriller, which is a follow up to his international bestseller "Every Dead Thing". "Dark Hollow" starts with a botched mob kidnapping in a small Maine town, with the $2 million ransom being stolen. A horrible duo of international torturers come to town to grab the money and a three-decade-old serial murder case heats up again.

Connolly writes beautifully about evil, death and destruction. It is a violent thriller in the tradition of Thomas Harris — eight men are dead in the first 10 pages, and the body count is going to go much higher. Among the murder and mayhem, Connolly develops an intricate, absorbing plot that pulls the reader in and makes the book very difficult to put down. The virgin woods of Maine, where violence roams free, becomes a major character in "Dark Hollow".

In Bird Parker, the reader is reintroduced to a horribly scarred, humane protagonist. Bird’s mistakes as a New York cop in "Every Dead Thing" led to the horrendous murders of his wife and child. Though he has given up the booze that helped destroy his life, he is allowed no peace. The ghosts of his wife and child appear when evil is on the horizon. These ghosts are soon joined by another murdered mother and child. Are these ghosts real or a figment of Bird’s tortured imagination?

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Bird’s grandfather was a Maine police detective who tangled with a serial killer who killed at least five women 30 years before. The killer is blown out of his dormant state and murders again. Though it is clear halfway through the book who the killer is and what his motives are, Connolly draws a captivating, feral figure of unadulterated evil. The killer is always lurking, watching Bird’s every move. As he ruined Bird’s grandfather’s life 30 years before, the killer is ready to destroy Bird and the people closest to him.

Connolly creates vivid images throughout the novel of small-town communities

their hidden despairs. His minor characters from out of town are also lovingly created. There is Stritch, the international killer, with his stench of death covered with cheap cologne. Then there are Angel and Louis, a New York City burglar and contract assassin, who are Bird’s only true friends.

These New Yorkers provide needed comic relief and firepower at crucial points in the novel.

At times, the harsh violence of "Dark Hollow" interferes with the momentum of the plot. Earlier in the book, it seems that every time Bird enters a house, he is going to find it full of corpses. And with the Boston mobsters hell bent on collecting their ransom, it seems that there are legions of Italians in leather jackets ready and willing to run into dark, abandoned warehouses to get killed. Along the way, Bird is tortured, beaten up and shot. But don’t worry, they are just flesh wounds.

"Dark Hollow" is at its best, however, when Bird Parker is battling the wickedness that confronts him. Connolly depicts a deft portrait of a battered and conflicted hero who pushes forward, using violence to counter the evil he faces. Bird is afraid of death, but he is not afraid to fight. "Dark Hollow" is a lyrical thriller full of darkness and blood that will force the reader to sleep with the light on.

Dublin-based John Connolly will be in New York, reading from "Dark Hollow" on Wednesday, July 18, at 8 p.m. at Rocky Sullivan’s, 129 Lexington Ave., NYC.

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