Review

Nocturnes

by John Connolly



NOCTURNES by John Connolly is a collection of short fiction. The
stories are bookended by two extended tales set in the United
States, while the balance of the remaining thirteen tales takes
place in Connolly's native British Isles. Of those thirteen, nine
are transcripts of stories written for presentation on BBC's Radio
Four. All are --- to varying degrees --- a wild, terrifying
ride.

"The Cancer Cowboy Rides" opens NOCTURNES. It is somewhat
reminiscent of a Stephen King tale --- the story of a being who
intentionally spreads a fast-acting terminal cancer by casual
contact. This is a terrifying story, one that will have you
avoiding the handclasps and bumps of strangers, and the jostle of
crowds.

The closing story, "The Reflecting Eye," is a Charlie Parker
novella that fills over one-fourth of the book. It finds Parker
waiting with Rachel for the birth of their child. Their quiet peace
is disturbed when Parker somewhat reluctantly undertakes an
investigation at the behest of the owner of an abandoned house,
once occupied by an infamous serial killer of children. A
photograph of an unknown girl has turned up in the mailbox. It may
not mean anything, but Parker can't take the chance, given that
there may be someone, or something, waiting within the nether
reaches of the house, poised to kill again.

"The Reflecting Eye," as with other Parker tales, flirts with the
supernatural, though Connolly perhaps delves deeper into the genre
than he has previously. While "The Reflecting Eye" will only whet
the appetite of Parker fans --- it is an appetizer, not a full meal
--- it does introduce a dark, mysterious character known as The
Collector, who may play a role in future Parker novels and is worth
reading for that reason alone.

The remaining stories in NOCTURNES are tinged with Lovecraftian
touches and are quite well done, even if the topics are familiar
ones. I have been reading Lovecraft and variations of his Cthulhu
mythos for a long time, and I'm always pleasantly (or unpleasantly)
surprised. "The Wakeford Abyss," for example, had me yelling, "Oh
shoot! Shoot! Darn!" (or words to that effect) when I finished this
creepy, claustrophobic tale of two spelunkers who decide to explore
a cavelike abyss that the rural locals tend to leave to itself.
Forests aren't any safer either as you'll discover after reading
"The Erlking," which will not only have you skirting the edge of
the local woods that your beagle likes to run through, but also
will result in you giving that locking latch on your windows an
extra tug to make sure they're shut.

Moving? Well, "Nocturne" will ensure that you check out the history
of that little fixer-upper that the realtor is so keen on selling
you, the one where the previous owner liked to play the piano for
all the children in the neighborhood. And if you're wondering why
that daughter of yours is acting so…differently as she
approaches adolescence, the answer is right there in "The New
Daughter." Check out that doll collection. And what's in it.

NOCTURNES demonstrates the range as well as the depth of Connolly's
talent. Hopefully this volume won't be overlooked due to its trade
paperback format, but will instead open up Connolly to a new
audience, while his longtime fans will find more than enough to
keep them entertained. Recommended, with the lights on.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 13, 2011

Nocturnes
by John Connolly

  • Publication Date: March 22, 2005
  • Paperback: 406 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • ISBN-10: 0743270193
  • ISBN-13: 9780743270199