A promising, unsettling debut
Paeans to a host of other latter-day crime-writing icons abound in this dark first novel of deprivation, detection and dissection. Former NYPD Detective Charlie "Birdman" Parker, has really had it bad. The son of a child-killing cop, Parker's alcoholism destroyed his marriage in name, while a deranged killer ended it in reality by gruesomely murdering his wife and child. Having quit the force amid ugly, suspicious rumors, Parker now ekes out a meager living catching escaped fugitives for sleazy bail bondsmen, and talks through his anguish with a sympathetic (and attractive) psychiatrist named Rachel Wolfe. One of his cases ropes him into what appears to be an internal Mafia squabble but quickly leads to something altogether more sinister and depraved.
Parker, who harbors a desperate yearning to aid other people's children as he could not his own, follows a bloodstained trail from New York's outer boroughs to the Louisiana swamps (William Hjortsberg, Falling Angel) where a bayou medicine woman (shades of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) helps him uncover a grisly string of child slayings (cue Andrew Vachss). While this is happening, the killer known as Traveling Man, who murdered Parker's own family, resurfaces, forcing the detective to enlist the aid of a pair of career criminals befriended during his days on the force (think Robert B. Parker here, if Hawk were gay).
As the Mob struggle spills over into a full-blown feud and the bodies start piling up, Parker and a disheveled FBI agent named Woolrich race against time to decipher the gory language of Traveling Man's psychopathology and determine where he will strike next (Thomas Harris, big time). Traveling Man's MO has a terrible familiarity for Parker, which in turn increases his dependence on Rachel, which leads to well, you get the idea. Connolly's nods to established authors carry more than a touch of homage, and Connolly himself employs a strong command of the written word and his American locales. Every Dead Thing is a promising first attempt, and should appeal to many fans of the genre.
Adam Dunn writes reviews and features for Current Diversions and Speak magazine.