A huge and quite shady fellow named Louis poses the question, "So
how we doin'?" Charlie Parker, a PI with a gun that tends to go off
around folks fairly often, answers with his usual cheeky wit, "Same
as usual: dead people, a mystery, more dead people."
That pretty much sums up the plot in its simplest form. Don't let
that fool you, though; the plot is layers deep. It's not Charlie's
fault that people get hurt around him; it seems he has no choice.
Circumstances frequently conspire to make him shoot guys who
persist in pulling nasty weapons on him. And he runs into sticky
situations at nearly every turn.
In this, Charlie Parker's fourth escapade, attorney Elliot Norton
--- an old buddy from back in his NYPD days --- telephones for help
with a case. To say it's a difficult one would be a gross
understatement. The daughter of a wealthy and very influential
white family has been murdered and, they say, raped by Elliot's
client Atys Jones, a black youth with a chip on his shoulder and a
host of foul words in his mouth. Elliot fervently believes in
Jones's innocence and presents some very convincing arguments to
back him up. Charlie understandably has no desire to leave his
pregnant lover, Rachel, to travel south to Charleston, South
Carolina. He has finally settled into a kind of peace and his life
is getting back on track after a short eternity spent healing from
the horrific murders of his wife and child. To complicate matters,
the man who butchered them, the Reverend Aaron Faulkner, has
petitioned for a bail hearing in which he stands a good chance of
winning at least temporary freedom.
In one ugly scene reminiscent of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, Faulkner's
new threats send more than chills down Charlie's spine. But Elliot
tugs at the guilt strings and Charlie can't say no. What he faces
in South Carolina, though, isn't remotely what he expected to find
there. Did Elliot intentionally mislead him or was he, too, a
victim of misinformation? When he turns up missing, Charlie has
more than a handful of problems to solve.
Charlie Parker is a character who law enforcement hates but readers
love. His clever comebacks infuriate his foes and delight his fans.
He creates his own brand of trouble, but fortunately extricates
himself --- with the help of a few friends of questionable
John Connolly tells a story exceedingly well, weaving a multitude
of characters deftly into a yarn of many textures. In THE WHITE
ROAD, he integrates tortured ghosts and Klan types, successful
businessmen and obsessed avengers, thugs, millionaires, corrupt
officials and, naturally, beautiful women. You name it, he put it
in there. His handling of the racial tensions is exceptional and
all the more interesting coming from an Irish writer. It feels as
if there are several stories going on here, but he brings them all
to a conclusion seamlessly.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 24, 2011