The generous and scholarly Tammy Moore, one of Verbal Magazine's reviewers and writers, has allowed us the pleasure of hosting one of her reviews. Take it away, Tammy...
In The Reapers John Connolly turns his focus from the troubled, and trouble-magnet, some-time PI Charlie Parker in order to follow the absorbing characters of Louis and Angel instead. It might seem like a risky move – six highly successful books with Charlie Parker as the protagonist suggest a formula to follow – but there’s a breadth and depth to the world that Connolly has created that makes you want to see what lies just around the corner. And just around the corner from Charlie Parker is Louis – his associate, his friend-of-sorts and his dark mirror image. A reflection that draws ever closer as Parker is forced further from the reassurance of his one-time role as a cop and Louis struggles to reconcile his burgeoning sense of decency (not exactly conscience, not Louis) with his essential nature. I’ve no doubt that many, if not all, of Connolly’s readers were delighted to learn more about the principled killer.
And The Reapers is Louis's book. There are no wrongs to right here or victims to be saved. Both sides of the conflict are just, both sides are grotesque. Years ago Louis murdered a man’s son and now the man wants revenge; years ago Louis put down a monster and now the monster’s equally monstrous parent seeks to destroy him. It’s Beowulf with designer suits and automatic weaponry.
It’s also a beautiful book. Not the cover, but inside. John Connolly is a man in love with language and it shows in his work. It’s not just that he has a knack for the beautiful, evocative turn of phrase, although it does, but the craft he puts into creating a moment and making it breathe. His descriptive prose is almost tactile, building lush mindscapes, and is a striking contrast to the wry noir tang of his dialogue.
The plot of the novel is quite straight-forward. Early on, we knew who the antagonist was, his nature if not his name, and why he wanted to bring Louis down. Once the antagonist made his first move it didn’t take long for Louis to find out that information too, but then it would have been contrived otherwise considering Louis past and the contacts he has. Besides, the mystery that we’re solving in the novel isn’t who wants Louis dead, but who Louis is: where he came from, what made him and who he is now. The addition of the scarred assassin Bliss to the hired killers sent to murder Louis, for example, is important not because of what he might do to Louis now, but because of what he was to him in the past.
That said about the plot, the few plot twists that do pepper the plot are all the more gripping for their rarity.
The Reapers is a vividly-realised, gripping book that I would highly recommend. New-comers to the series should, if possible, start at the beginning but The Reapers can function as a stand-alone novel too.