A new book by John Connolly is always a treat, particularly if it is one featuring Connolly's private detective Charlie Parker. The Whisperers is Parker's 9th outing in a series that has propelled Connolly into the position of being one of Ireland's best selling authors, with not one of his books actually set in Ireland. Parker has been asked to look into an ex soldier, Joel Tobias, who is mistreating his girlfriend. The client, Bennett Patchett, has a secondary motive which is to uncover why his son Damien, also an ex soldier and who served with Tobias in Iraq, committed suicide. As Parker's investigation develops he discovers a suicide cluster amongst the ex servicemen who served together and it rapidly becomes clear that Tobias's income can not support his lifestyle.
The soldiers are smuggling looted Iraqi artefacts but they have transported more than they bargained for across the Canadian border. An item has come to the attention of several interested parties, shadowy figures that embody the evil in men's hearts and minds. As the object of desire whispers to those who might bend to it's will, Parker, The Collector and The Captain manoeuvre for possession of something that could unleash terror and destruction on the world.
Connolly is clearly intent on informing as well as entertaining in this novel, principally about the problems of post traumatic stress disorder in returning soldiers and the poor quality of aftercare afforded those injured both physically and mentally by participation in the conflict in Iraq. His research is extensive, not heavy handed and is imported into the storyline almost seamlessly, no mean feat. Fans will be pleased to see the return of Louis and Angel, if only briefly, and there are intimations that Parker will be put to further and greater tests in the future. My one reservation is that the end seemed rushed, we are told rather than shown how the story ends for one of the characters, a character who it seemed had little significance but whose influence turns out to have been crucial. This reservation aside, The Whisperers is a compelling read, one that you will find it difficult to put down once started and which fans of Charlie Parker will find satisfying. Whilst the detective/supernatural/horror mix will not appeal to everyone I would suggest that Connolly's work should be read not only for the shear quality of the writing but also, in the Parker books, for the breadth of Connolly's vision. Parker is not just a detective, he is, in the tradition of those epic poems of old, battling the demon, slaying the dragon, killing Grendel. He is the scarred hero fighting the darkness in men's souls and as such is the hope of civilisation, a last bulwark against the demons and monsters that lurk just outside of the comforting glow of the firelight. Epic tales do not come much better than this.