Book Review: Wrath of Angels by John Connolly

Having never read a John Connolly before, nor one of the Charlie Parker books, I was a bit concerned about being introduced to his work by starting on the eleventh book of a series. However, like most good authors who write extended series featuring the same character, Wrath of Angels is a novel that you can read as a stand-alone or as part of a sequence. Though, I suspect that those who have followed the trials of Parker (and I gather there have been many) will no doubt reap far more rewards than someone who is ignorant of his background, except through the hints dropped throughout WoA. I think this is why, in the end, though I enjoyed the book, it left me a little hollow – I don’t blame the writer, I blame my decision to pick up book 11!

WoA tells the story of a mysterious plane crash deep in the Maine woods and how, some time after it occurs, two older men stumble upon the wreckage and the contents of the craft. Though there are no bodies, there’s evidence of survivors, but this doesn’t interest the men. Instead, against their better moral judgment, they take some of the cargo, and it’s this decision that sets in motion a series of events and murders in the present and brings Charlie Parker into the story. Unfortunately, his involvement and the stolen cargo also alert other, less salubrious and very, very scary characters, all of whom are intent on retrieving what they believe is rightfully theirs, no matter who they have to kill, regardless of what bargains they have to strike. Some, it seems, are even prepared to sell their souls…at least, they would if they had one…

Nonetheless, WoA introduced me to new writer with a supernatural bent who has a lovely writing style. I often felt as if I was enjoying a great old yarn, as even minor characters were given really intricate and meaningful back-stories that enriched their purpose in terms of plot and added layers to the story as well – even if they only featured briefly. Connolly loves a good metaphor and simile and uses them with abandon, mostly very well, though there were times when similes were just a tad overused.

Drawing on demonology and angels and the notion of an eternal battle between those who have been graced or cursed and all states in-between, Connolly offers a very interesting spin on religion, the supernatural, contemporary matters and detective work. I really liked that the nature of his lead character remains a mystery – not just to Parker, but to those who have a vested interest in discovering which side he’s on as well.

Connolly evokes atmosphere so very well – whether it’s a diner in a small town or the tangled, night-dark woods and black, oily pools of the Maine forests. I don’t think I’ve felt quite so anxious or uncomfortable reading a book for a long time. The sense of something otherworldly, hungry, and a dark power lurking, watching, is so very realistically brought to life, hovering at the edges of the tale and occasionally bursting into the action. I found myself looking over my shoulder while I was reading a little too often for my comfort!

Overall, I thought this was a good book. I’m not certain I will read the others and this is possibly unfair upon Connolly, but horror books are not what I enjoy, the frisson created here was a little too stark for me and painful – but that shouldn’t stop anyone who enjoys a fine fright, or supernatural thrillers and crime, from reading this guy. He can write!

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