THE UNQUIET continues the brooding mythos of Charlie Parker, the Portland, Maine detective who quietly visits doom and disaster even as he attempts to cast it off of others. Parker is, in a sense, a contemporary sin eater, except that his hell is the here and now. While John Connolly's novels are ostensibly about Parker, he is often the least interesting character involved. Connolly is all about writing bad guys, and believe me, even the bad guys operating on the side of "good" are still bad guys.
Frank Merrick is a dangerous man, a killer and a self-styled revenger. He is very interested in the whereabouts of Dr. Daniel Clay, a psychiatrist fallen into disgrace who has been missing for several years and declared dead. Merrick believes that Clay is alive and knows the truth about the disappearance of Merrick's child. He is stalking Clay's daughter, Rebecca, convinced that she knows her father's whereabouts.
Parker is hired by Rebecca to stop Merrick. He brings in his usual big guns and investigates Merrick's background, as well as the circumstances surrounding Clay's professional downfall and subsequent disappearance. While doing this, he slowly becomes aware of a shadowy presence --- entities he comes to know as the Hollow Men. The figures of T.S. Eliot's work quietly start interjecting themselves into the investigation, even as Parker receives warnings about them from both sides of the veil. And as he begins to discover the truth about Clay and Merrick, Parker finds himself caught in a deadly crossfire between those who seek revelation regarding Clay's actions and those who strive to keep them hidden.
Connolly's Maine is not all fog and lobster pots; the uneasy co-existence between rural and urban Maine is as much a centerpiece of his work as is Parker and his slowly expanding cast of supporting characters. His ability to inject the dark history of Maine's past into the narrative is first-rate as well. Even if you've never had the urge to drive to this state for a chowder and crab lunch, it is almost impossible to resist such a temptation after reading THE UNQUIET, if only to trace Parker's path as taken through the narrative.
This frightening work of darkness and beauty, written by one of the true masters in the thriller and horror genres, is not to be missed.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 24, 2011