Re: RARA-AVIS: Recent readings

Date: 12 Jun 2004

I just finished John Connolly's award-winning debut novel, EVERY DEAD THING. Despite its many strengths, I was disappointed.

Largely, I think it was a matter of having too disjointed a plot, and being too long. The hero, private eye Charlie "Bird" Parker, is on the trail of a serial killer called "The Traveling Man" who viciously murdered Parker's wife and daughter. In the meantime, he's taking on a variety of PI cases in and around NYC, not because he needs the money, but just to keep busy in between following leads on his family's murder. One of these is a missing persons case that takes up the first half of the book and puts him on the trail of a completely different serial killer.

Once he's cleared up that case (which takes up roughly the first half of the novel), he gets a lead on his wife's case and is immediately off to New Orleans with his version of the "psycho sidekick" (or "sicekicks since there are two of them, a professional burglar and a black, politically conservative hit man who are a gay couple) to follow it up.

To begin with, the first half of the book is so imperfectly connected to the second half that I think it would have worked better if the two halves had just been published as two separate novels. And since the book's about 400 pages long, that still would have made for two fairly substantial, if appealingly tight, books.

Secondly, the identity of his family's killer was pretty obvious to me fairly early on.

Finally, the "rescue-of-the-heroine" scene at the end, while not badly done, still had an odor of contrivance about it.

Still, Connolly writes well and one thing I've got to give him full credit for, since he's Irish, is that he writes convincingly American. So many writers from the British Isles have done such a bad job trying to write American-style crime novels, that someone who gets it so right deserves to have it pointed out (of course, Connolly's Irish, not British, and everyone knows that the Irish have such a superlative ear).

The only false note I heard was when he referred to a character as a "junior school" teacher, by which I suppose he meant a "junior HIGH school" teacher.

Next up, Michael Connelly's CITY OF BONES.


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