THE WHITE ROAD

John Connolly, Author . Atria $25 (400p) ISBN 978-0-7434-5638-8

"I have learned to embrace the dead and they, in their turn, have found a way to reach out to me." It's becoming increasingly clear from pronouncements such as this that PI Charlie Parker is hardly your garden-variety mystery protagonist. In Connolly's latest spine-tingling opus (after The Killing Kind), readers gain further insights into the soul of this tormented man—a hero of uncommon depth and compulsions. We also learn more about Angel and Louis, Parker's longtime cronies (and gay Odd Couple) who function as Greek chorus, avenging angels and their buddy's conscience. Angel resembles "the runway model for a decorators' convention, assuming that the decorators' tastes veered toward five-six, semiretired gay burglars," while Louis possesses "six feet six inches of attitude, razor-sharp dress sense, and gay Republican pride." (Note to Connolly: how about a spin-off novel for these two idiosyncratic supporting players?) Parker's description of his newest case—"dead people, a mystery, more dead people"—exemplifies his bluntness; true to form, he's never far from a cutting remark or casual wisecrack (hearing that an especially odious character has "found Jesus," Parker observes, "I figure Jesus should be more careful about who finds Him"). When a former colleague who's practicing law in Charleston, S.C., asks for Parker's help on a racially charged murder case, Parker reluctantly leaves his Maine habitat. The South that he encounters is found in no guidebook: it's a pernicious locale where the good old boys are far from good, where country music speaks "of war and vengeance" and where one soulless individual "smelled of slow burning... like the odor left after an oil fire had just been extinguished." Adding eerie overtones to Connolly's intricately plotted tale are more of Parker's musings on the concept of death and the nature of evil—soliloquies often accompanied by spectral visions. The malevolence here is almost palpable (even more so than in Parker's earlier outings). 25-city author tour. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 03/17/2003
Release date: 03/01/2003
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