The long-dead, gray-skinned wraiths Connolly conjures up in this thriller with a supernatural twist are lighthearted sprites compared to the grotesque humans who maim, rape and kill their way through the gore-clotted story of horror and revenge. Connolly's usual protagonist, Charlie "Bird" Parker (The White Road ; Dark Hollow ; Every Dead Thing ), makes only a brief appearance here, for which he should give heartfelt thanks. Off the coast of Maine, Dutch Island, known to the old-timers as Sanctuary, is cursed by the spirits of those who died in a savage slaughter there in the year 1693. In the present day, imprisoned murderer Edward Moloch dreams of an ancient land where he is a hunter bent on the massacre of his wife and the inhabitants of a small village. Moloch, the worst of the bad men of the title, escapes from prison and leaves a trail of mutilated victims behind as he searches for the wife who several years earlier betrayed him to police to escape his brutality. On Dutch Island, longtime native Joe Dupree, known as Melancholy Joe, is the oversize (7' 2" and 360 pounds) but gentle chief of police. He's developed a fondness for beautiful newcomer Marianne Elliott, and the feeling is mutual. Unfortunately, Marianne is Moloch's ex-wife and Moloch's on his way, leading a small gang of other very bad men. It's a terrifying story, the action brutal, grotesque and unrelentingly violent. Horrified readers will turn the last blood-soaked page wondering if they would have begun the first had they known what was coming. Think Thomas Harris by way of Stephen King: haunting, compelling, but not for the faint of heart. Agent, Darley Anderson. (Mar.)
Forecast : Connolly lives in Ireland, but travels frequently in America to research his locations. His earlier novels have done well and built a nice base of fans with strong stomachs who like their thrillers as cold and dark as the grave.