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Book Review- The Wolf in Winter

Wolf in WinterI’ve written in this blog before about the fascinating and slow journey John Connelly’s Charlie Parker series of novels has taken from detective/psychological horror thrillers to a series that combined the best elements of P.I. Fiction and supernatural horror. It’s been a great journey full of creepy cool revelations and fun pay off. Most of the revelations and pay off come in stories involving Parker’s battle with the secretive cabal known as The Believers, which are not part of every novel. Sometimes we get a stand alone that finds Parker and his associates dealing with unrelated eerie crime in Maine or other parts of the East Coast.

Connelly’s latest Parker novel “The Wolf in Winter” appeared to be just such a novel, which was fine. I tend to enjoy the books more that offer larger pieces to the long form supernatural story that the writer is telling, but the stand alone novels are enjoyable. “The Wolf in Winter seemed especially promising too because it dealt with a tainted and corrupt small town in Maine. One of my most favorite horror stories H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” also deals with a corrupt and evil New England town.

Now after completing “The Wolf in Winter” I’m happy to say that yes the fictionalized sinister small town featured in it, Prosperous Maine, felt like a modern day take on Innsmouth and the island featuered in the classic horror film “The Wicker Man” (I’m talking about the original of course not the awful remake with Nicholas Cage). Best of all though was the fact that “The Wolf in Winter” wasn’t entirely a stand alone novel! We got some cool hints about the various secret societies that move in the shadows of Charlie Parker’s world, Parker’s destiny, and the buried sinister force that Parker and these groups are drawn towards.
The action in “The Wolf in Winter” kicks off with Parker being drawn to Prosperous because of the death of homelessImageHandler.ashx friend who visited the tainted town while searching for his daughter. A little over halfway through Parker’s investigation takes a dramatic turn and that’s where we start to get more hints of the secret, shadowy, and supernatural world that Connelly is building.

I enjoyed both parts of the book, but I have to admit especially liking the second half. That second half also allowed Connelly to put the spotlight on Parker’s best friends, and in my opinion two of the best characters in crime fiction, Louis the assassin and his lover Angel a thief. Regular readers of the series know just how cool these guys are. Their parts of the story crackle with excitement, cool character moments, and even some fun bits of humor.

Louis and Angel aren’t the only returning characters that get fun moments in the book. The mysterious serial killer/vigilante known as the Collector plays an important role and Rabbi Epstein and his deaf bodyguard also make an appearance. The novel also really fleshed out Parker’s friend Ronald Straydeer, a Native American who helps counsel returning soldiers. He gets some great, exciting sequences and I can’t wait to see more of him.

It wasn’t just the returning cast that was fascinating in “The Wolf in Winter.” We also got to meet a number of the citizens of Prosperous. Some were just as sinister and nasty as I expected, but what made the novel even better was the fact that many of the town’s residents were nuanced and were not exactly as evil as you’d expect from a town where the ruling council is hiding a malevolent, supernatural secret.

So “The Wolf in Winter” is packed with excitement, enigmatic revelations, and occult surrealism as well as plenty of action. The book’s climax is literally an explosive one. It was a highly enjoyable read and easily one of the best books in the series. I can’t wait to see where Connelly takes Charlie Parker next.

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