The 13th book in the long running Charlie "bird" Parker dark crime series. The great concern about reading the latest offering from John Connolly is to ask the question...is this a step too far? is it not time that Charlie Parker was put into retirement? does the author not run the risk of simply boring the reader with a character, indeed list of characters that quite simply have no more to say or offer? However let it be said here now that "bird" is live and tweeting! and A Song of Shadows is another remarkable achievement from an author who seems to go from strength to strength.
The central theme of this story is the unveiling and uncovering of Nazi war criminals living in the United States. Bruno Perlmans body is washed ashore in the town of Boreas, his family had been interned at a concentration camp called Lubsko. What is the connection between him and Marcus Baulman, Ruth Winter and her mother Isha? This is an exceptionally well researched novel that probes deep into both America and Germany's attitude to war criminals guilty of genocide and how they should be dealt with (or not)
We see a very subdued Charlie Parker who is recuperating in Boreas (having almost died in his previous outing) and at first his contribution to the story is incidental making the acquaintance of Amanda Winter (Ruth's daughter) on one of his early morning exercise outings along the beach. "His presence in Boreas was incongruous, given his reputation. It was like having a grenade rolling around, one you had been assured was defused but hadn't had time to check out for yourself". What is remarkable in this story is that John Connolly has kept our interest in Parker very much alive even thought he has tended to dwell more on the central issue, the unmasking of war criminals and by doing this Parker receives the readers utmost sympathy in his battle back to full health with of course the help and guidance of his personal body guards the mysterious and dangerous Louis and Angel together with a welcome appearance from The Fulcis, and a cameo role for “The Collector of Souls”
What sets Connolly’s books apart is the adding of a dark element to Parker’s persona. Parker blames himself for the murder of his wife and daughter Jennifer and you cannot help but feel that he will be relieved when it is time for him to join them. He has many visions and often daughter Jennifer appears before him, is she real or a product of his disturbed mind. In A Song of Shadows we once again meet Parker’s second daughter Sam who appears to have inherited the family trait of talking to the dead and in one memorable scene has an encounter with Jennifer…….
“The dead daughter had returned, standing at the end of Sam’s bed, her head bowed so that her hair might conceal the ruin of her face. Sam felt sorry for her, the way she felt sorry for anyone who was forced to endure a form of disability or physical disfigurement. She also understood that it had to be this way for the girl. When she crossed over to this world, she took the last form in which she had inhabited it when she was alive. Her beauty was for another place”
So where does Charlie Parker go from here, can we expect a 14th outing? In the final pages surprisingly Parker secures his own future (I will not disclose how but it comes about from an unexpected source) and that for all JC fans can only be great news. This is storytelling of the highest order, intelligent well researched and a joy to read and I highly recommend! The photograph is a recent book signing that I attended in Bath on April 13th 2015 where I had the great pleasure of meeting the great JC himself....what a nice guy :))