The Wolf in Winter: A Charlie Parker Thriller
John Connolly has been meeting and exceeding his own standards for a while now in an almost unbroken succession of books beginning with EVERY DEAD THING. That august debut introduced the very capable and exceedingly troubled Charlie Parker to an unsuspecting world. Since then, Connolly has been fleshing out Parker’s universe with a number of noteworthy supporting characters --- most notably Louis and Angel, who bring a dark, bloody comic relief to the proceedings --- while (mostly) avoiding the temptation to make Parker a world beater. THE WOLF IN WINTER, the latest addition to the Parker canon, is The Man --- Connolly and Parker, take your pick --- at his best. It is full of grim proceedings, gallows humor, and is stuffed to bursting with surprises and, yes, bittersweet sorrow.
"I don’t say this about many books, but I will about THE WOLF IN WINTER: the ending gives me reason and motivation to live long enough to see what happens next. I cannot remember the last time I was so affected by a work of fiction. Connolly once again has outdone himself."
The incident that gets Parker rolling here is the apparent suicide in Portland, Maine of a homeless man named Jude, a complex individual who, but for the crossing of some mental wires, might have been destined for far better things and a gentler fate. An ex-police officer turned private investigator, Parker had occasionally used Jude as a source of street information and is troubled by the nature of his passing. It does not sit well with Parker, who believes that the classification of Jude’s death as self-inflicted is an easy rush to judgment by the police. As the reader is well aware, he is entirely correct.
Jude’s daughter, a drug addict attempting to turn her life around, has gone missing. When last heard from, she had obtained a position in the small town of Prosperous, which had weathered the ongoing recession far better than its neighboring municipalities. There is a reason for the prosperity and good fortune in Prosperous, and the people of that town keep it close. Outsiders are discouraged, so Jude’s continuing journeys to the town and incessant search for his daughter effectively sealed his death warrant. Parker ultimately follows Jude’s slim trail of evidence to Prosperous, seeking an answer to his friend’s demise and perhaps to the fate of Jude’s daughter as well.
Parker has never been in such mortal danger in all his years. Before THE WOLF IN WINTER ends, strange and unexpected alliances will be formed, new revelations will occur, and a long-established character will be sent on a journey from which there may be no return.
The book’s conclusion brought tears to my eyes (but don’t tell anyone). The story that is told within its pages is complete in and of itself, though knowledge of what has gone before through the reading of the entire Parker canon will increase immeasurably one’s enjoyment of this latest installment. I don’t say this about many books, but I will about THE WOLF IN WINTER: the ending gives me reason and motivation to live long enough to see what happens next. I cannot remember the last time I was so affected by a work of fiction. Connolly once again has outdone himself.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 31, 2014