Book: Dark Hollow

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Dark Hollow: A Novel

Author: John Connolly
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Parker—still drained and raw from the murder of his family—returns to the Maine of his childhood, looking for a chance to recover. But when a young woman, Rita, is savagely killed along with her child, Parker joins the hunt for their murderer. The obvious suspect is Billy Purdue, Rita’s estranged husband. But as the death toll mounts, it becomes apparent that someone else is also hunting for Billy Purdue. The answer to the puzzle lies deep in the past: in the troubled history of Parker’s own grandfather, in the horror of a tree adorned with victims, and in the violent origins of a killer.

Dark Hollow is a masterful second novel from a young Irish writer whose storytelling skills have established him as the strongest new thriller writer since Thomas Harris. Building on the rich imagery, complex plotting, and remarkable characters of Every Dead Thing, Connolly has constructed a tale more menacing and memorable than the last.


Charlie “Bird” Parker, the protagonist of John Connolly’s Shamus Award-winning first novel, Every Dead Thing, returns in another moody, masterful thriller set in the beautifully evoked Maine woods where Bird has returned to lick his wounds and recover from the murder of his wife and daughter explored in the earlier book. A half-hearted investigator, Bird agrees to track down the ex-husband of Rita Purdue and get the child support she has coming to her. And when Rita and her son are killed and the finger of suspicion points to Billy Purdue, Bird still feels a moral obligation to find the young man, even though he can’t believe he’s a killer. Then the bodies begin piling up, among them a bunch of Cambodian killers, some mob-connected Boston gangsters, a couple of people to whom Billy turned for refuge, and an old woman in a nursing home who dies with the name of a bogeyman on her lips—the mysterious Caleb Kyle. It’s not the first time Bird’s heard that name: his grandfather, who was also a cop, spent his last years trying to track down the legendary monster whose name was always used to scare kids into doing what they were supposed to. And it’s not only his grandfather’s ghost that haunts Bird as he attempts to solve the mystery of who Billy Purdue really is; the spirits of his dead wife and child urge him on in his attempt to find justice for Rita and her child as well. Aided in his quest by two unlikely but compellingly realized associates, a gay hit man and his lover, Bird confronts the evil that lurks in a mythical monster who turns out to be all too real, and comes to terms, finally, with the grief that has colored his life black since the death of his family. A powerful, well-paced thriller with a complex and interesting hero who bears even further explication—hopefully in his third adventure. —Jane Adams

Recent years have seen a flurry of horror writers crossing over to the mystery genre—Peter Straub, Dan Simmons and Kristin Kathryn Rusch are three—but little movement has occurred in the opposite direction. Mysteries are where the commercial action is. When John Connolly, an Irish journalist, burst upon the scene in Great Britain in 1999 with the bestselling Every Dead Thing (it later won the Shamus award for Best First Private Eye Novel when published in the States), it would not have been unfair to describe what he was offering as “horror”. However, “shock noir” is probably a better way of describing such a grab-you-by-the-eyelashes thriller, with its high body count and inventively grisly methods of dispatching hapless victims.

Connolly—who seems unconcernedly to be trespassing on Stephen King territory in Dark Hollow, with its Maine setting and echoes of background atrocities—actually brings to mind a slightly different hybridisation of horror and mystery: you might say it’s Wilkie Collins re-tooled by James Ellroy. Lurking in his pages is more than a faint whiff of the Victorian triple-decker, with all its gothic complexities, while, at the same time, punctuating the plot are grotesque and excessive acts of sadism of a wholly modern sort that will cause some readers indignantly to close the book.

The trouble is, by doing that they miss a richly ripe, closely textured tale. Connolly’s series character, ex-NYPD detective Charlie “Bird” Parker, is a man with a lot of pain to surmount—his wife and child were murdered in Every Dead Thing—but he’s also a dogged knight errant attuned to the pain felt by others. In Dark Hollow, his quest for the truth is a twisty one, but he stays the course, and so should you. —Otto Penzler,

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