The Burning Soul by John Connolly – a review

The TOPCWFC is continuing in earnest and due to lots of recent long train rides I’ve read many more books than I’ve had chance to write reviews for. At least it is this way round rather than not having chance to read the books as I’m loving every minute of it. It is just a shame work gets in the way of reading!

I mentioned in a previous post that I have recently read my first ever John Connolly novel, The Burning Soul. I have always steered clear of his books in the past as I’m not a big fan of the supernatural crime writer. Personally I think it can be a bit of a lazy way to allow crimes to be committed as the writer can get away with pretty much anything and any motive (or lack of) Whereas in ‘real’ crime the writer has to make sure the plot could actually happen in life. Think the film ‘Jeepers Creepers’ for example. I had therefore always thought that John Connolly wrote only supernatural stories, hence my avoidance.

However I was completely wrong. Whilst this book did have a certain ‘other world’ feel, this gave it great presence and atmosphere rather than making me feel I was going to be disappointed. Charlie Parker is asked to help Randell Haight. When young he and his friend killed a young girl and served a prison term. Haight has moved into the small town of Pastors Bay and tried to get on with his life. Now Haight has started receiving letters threatening to reveal his past and so calls on Parker to help. In the meantime a young girl from the town has gone missing. Suspicion obviously points to Haight and so Parker realises to help his client he needs to find the girl.

Both Parker and Haight are haunted by the ghosts of little girls (daughter and victim respectively) who help develop the plot, and add the supernatural element that Connolly is known for. However the crime, and its outcome are 100% human based.

I liked this book a lot. I thought the writing was good, and the story sped along quickly. It starts out as seeming to be a basic missing person and obvious suspect tale. However this soon turned out to be misguided. There were a huge number of twists and turns throughout. Although it became clear towards the end who was going to be the guilty party, this only seemed to make me want to finish the book quicker, to see if I was right or not.

There are apparently 11 other Parker Novels and I imagine that alot of the characters are recurring ones which I think makes for a good series.  Although these characters made only fleeting visits in this novel they seemed to bring an undercurrent of menace and violence that I suspect may be more prevalent in other books.

I am not sure how much this novel was a representation of the rest of the series as I have nothing to compare it to. I do think to get the best out of books like this you should read them from the very first one and I definitely intend to do just that.  John Connolly kicks off the programme on friday morning at 9am, talking to our favourite Mark Billingham so its going to be a cracking start to the event!

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Filed under book review, Theakstons Festival

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