- The Women in the Woods (A Charlie Parker Thriller: 16).
- John Connolly.
- 496 pages.
- Crime / Thriller / Mystery / Fiction.
- My Rating: Hell Yeah Book Review.
It is spring, and the semi-preserved body of a young Jewish woman is discovered buried in the Maine woods. It is clear that she gave birth shortly before her death.
But there is no sign of a baby.
Private detective Charlie Parker is engaged by the lawyer Moxie Castin to shadow the police investigation and find the infant, but Parker is not the only searcher. Someone else is following the trail left by the woman, someone with an interest in more than a missing child, someone prepared to leave bodies in his wake.
And in a house by the woods, a toy telephone begins to ring.
For a young boy is about to receive a call from a dead woman . . .
I’d seen some stellar reviews for this book back when it was released in hardback last year. I have to admit that I’ve not read any of the previous books in the series but due to those reviews, the book was on my radar. When I saw that the paperback had just been released and I read the deliciously dark blurb I decided that I had to give it a go.👍📚
There’s a brief recap of key events from the previous books in the series at the back of the book. It only offers up the bones and doesn’t go into the marrow of what has come before. But, as someone new to the series it is a nice touch, was appreciated and it helped me to become acquainted with previous events from the series.
Private Investigator Charlie Parker is tasked by his friend, the lawyer Moxie Castin to look into the recent discovery of a female body that has been unearthed due to the recent weather in a Maine forest, the ‘women in the woods’ of the book’s title. Moxie is Jewish and the Star of David was carved on a tree near to the body as a marker, a gravestone, a remembrance and a sign of respect to the person buried there. Prior to being buried the women had just given birth but there is no infant body to be found with her own remains. As a fellow Jew Moxie wants to know the truth about the women and to know what happened to the child, a sort of civic responsibility to another Jew and a debt to the dead so that, at least, they can rest in peace.
Quayle and Mors are searching for a missing woman, one believed to be in possession of an object of great importance to Quayle and his goals. As they search for her they leave a trail of blood in their wake and bodies strewn across states. You can’t outrun the devil, the pair are cold and calculating and while Quayle with his tweed and velvet is unsettling in a way that radiates disquiet. Mors, well, Mors with her dirty white hair, eyes, malodorous breath and pallid skin is creepy as fuck, tainted by evil and definitely has the devil in her.
As Quayle and Mors are searching for the missing woman and Parker is looking into the identity of the dead body. Louis, one of two hitmen (along with Angel) who work with Parker blows up a truck with Confederate flags adjourning it.
The last piece on the puzzle is, in a house near to the woods where the body is discovered five-year-old Daniel Weaver lives with his mother, Holly, his toy phone starts mysteriously ringing. Sometimes the dead leave something of themselves behind, an imprint, an impression, sometimes it will come calling.
The merging of the supernatural and the normal works really well together. Adding an air of menace to the story and an extra dimension to the investigation. The supernatural element is used in an understated way by Connolly that to create some truly chilling moments.
There are many well-realised characters involved in The Women in the Woods. Parker, himself, Louis, Moxie Castin, Daniel Weaver, Holly Weaver, Grandpa Owen, Billy Ocean, Quale and Mors. It really is a full-spectrum on display, from the bad through to the good, those who are evil, who have darkness in them, a blackened gaping hole where a heart should be and those who are decent, who do the right thing and have decency in them, who have a heart and who care.
I loved all aspects of the story in The Women in the Woods and I found it to be deep and layered. It is a real page-turning read and there are lots of twists and turns. Parker trying to uncover the identity of the dead women, Daniel and his ringing toy phone, his mother Holly and her hidden truth, Quayle and Mors searching for a missing woman, the artefact that Quayle is after and its purpose, the shadowy organisation of the Backers, the network of people who try and keep mistreated women safe, who offer them help, refuge, safe havens and protection from those who abuse them and those who they are running away from. It is fascinating to see how the connections are made and how Connolly fits all of the pieces together, even the blowing up of the truck which, for a long time seems disparate to the rest of the story ties into the overall story to form a sinister picture that is revealed before your very eyes.
Admittedly, I wasn’t as connected with the character of Charlie Parker during my time spent reading The Women in the Woods as fans and readers who have been with him from the first book would be. I was lacking seeing Parker (Louis and Angel too) from the beginning, through the evil that men do to beyond the veil and the otherworldly. Seeing him live through the pain and grow through the trials and tribulations of the series but thanks to the stellar characterisation on display by Connolly I still felt a pull towards the character. If like me, you are late to the series then The Women in the Woods can easily be read and thoroughly enjoyed as either a standalone or as a (very late) entry point to the series. The next book in the series, A Book of Bones is out in April and after the ending to The Women in the Woods well……I can’t wait!
Parker is a fascinating and resilient character and given the time in an ideal world I’d love to go back and read about him and his blacker than pitch exploits from the very beginning. Alas, that is in an ideal world and sadly, I doubt that I will have the time. I (perhaps) can’t go back but I can go forth and while I’m late to the party I’m all-in for continuing forward with the series.
Connolly has a descriptive way with words and he knows how to tell a story. Add in short and snappy chapters alternating between the various characters that keep the pace moving and the reader invested in the story and you have a darkly compelling tale.
Purchase The Women in the Woods (A Charlie Parker Thriller: #16).
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