John Connolly - The Charlie Parker Series:
Every Dead Thing, The Killing Kind, The White Road, Dark Hollow, The Black Angel

Ladymol's Review


Most of the fiction we’ve reviewed so far has been specifically gay with lead, gay characters. John Connolly’s crime series is different. The main character of the books, Charlie Parker, is straight and in a relationship, and with a baby daughter (it’s much more complicated and tragic than that, but that’s the essence). However, and very unusually for a mainstream crime series like this, Charlie’s associates are a gay couple Louis and Angel. The uniqueness of Connelly’s vision doesn’t end there - after all, other lead, straight characters have had gay friends or helpers - where Louis and Angel differ is that they don’t fulfil any gay stereotypes. They aren’t there because they are gay. When the going gets really tough (and you have to read these books to believe just how tough life gets for Charlie) Louis and Angel are his dark saviours, exuding power and menace.

First and foremost, I’d be reading these books without the gay angle. In fact, I started reading them not knowing it was there – one glance at one page and I was so hooked I bought a “straight” book! But I’ve rarely read fiction this good. Connolly is Irish, but you wouldn’t know it from his amazing, atmospheric capturing of the American Dream / Nightmares in this story. Charlie, traumatised by the loss of his first wife and daughter, leaves the NYPD and strikes out on his own as a PI. He discovers a talent for empathising with the dead, and herein lies the uniqueness of these tales. They are supernatural blended with the real, and it’s up to you to decide where one ends and the other begins. A sceptic like me might assign Charlie’s visions to emotional stress, alcohol or tiredness. A believer might see him as an avenging angel, in contact with lost spirits, helping to bring them some peace. Either way, the darkness and evil within men seems to seek him out. The books deal with the worst and best in human nature in superbly plotted novels.

And then we have Louis and Angel. Louis, six feet and then some, gorgeous and black, is an assassin, a killer for hire. His lethality is legend. Angel is a scruffy ex-con who has suffered abuse and hardship since he was a young boy. One night he breaks into a luxurious apartment and attempts to steal a television. Connolly never makes it clear whether Angel ended up with Louis’s television – but he does end up with his heart! Ten years and counting, their relationship is binding and steadfast, never explicitly discussed by Connolly but just another delicious thread in these intriguing books. They provide both the comedy relief, bickering furiously with Charlie but mostly with each other, but also the dramatic tension as you know when Louis arrives people will start dying.

None of these books are for the fainthearted. Nothing in vampire horror could prepare you for the horrors men can inflict on each other. The supernatural elements build throughout the series to the final conflagration in The Dark Angel, and the books are best read in order, as the events of one seep into the events of the others. However, I was so hooked on the books I read them when I could get hold of them and reading out of sequence hasn’t destroyed my pleasure in them one bit.    

I can’t recommend these books too highly if you are into serial killer/forensic science/crime novels, or if you are into supernatural/religious themes. That Connelly has the grace and confidence to make two of his best characters gay is tribute to his qualities as an author. It’s wrong, I guess, to say that either Louis or Angel is a role model, as they are criminals and killers. But I can’t help but think that they are. I love it when they appear, mean and evil and avenging. I think Louis is the most enigmatic and interesting character I’ve read for a long time. He certainly deserves his own series – Angel in tow, obviously. 

Great reading and not to be missed.