Book: The Whisperers

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The Whisperers: A Charlie Parker Thriller

Author: John Connolly
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

The border between Maine and Canada is porous. Anything can be smuggled across it: drugs, cash, weapons, people.

Now a group of disenchanted ex-soldiers has begun its own smuggling operation, and their cargo is stranger and more terrifying than one can imagine.

Anyone, that is, except private detective Charlie Parker, who has his own intimate knowledge of the darkness in men’s hearts. Brought in to investigate an apparent suicide, Parker discovers an epidemic of deaths among the former combatants.

And that their actions have attracted the attention of the reclusive Herod, a man with a taste for the strange. Where Herod goes, so, too, does the shadowy figure that he calls the Captain. To defeat them, Parker must form an uneasy alliance with a man he fears more than any other…


When so many writers depressingly tread the same familiar territory, it’s particularly invigorating when one comes across someone like John Connolly. To some degree, this immensely talented Irish writer (who, refreshingly free of parochialism, sets his books in the USA), utilises tropes and concepts that other crime/thriller novelists have used, but synthesises and transforms them in strange and quirky new ways, creating a rich panoply of literary effects that are very much his own territory.

His long-term protagonist, detective Charlie Parker, makes a welcome return in The Whisperers. The setting is the border between Canada and Maine, at which the concept of control is fairly nebulous. There is a regular traffic across the border of everything from drugs and armaments to people and money. One particular smuggling initiative is markedly different from the rest: a cadre of ex-soldiers are smuggling something very unusual indeed, and it is up to the battered but resilient private eye Charlie Parker to take on some dangerous opponents. But there is something else in the mix here: the mysterious individual known as Herod, and his equally enigmatic companion The Captain. Too much even for John Connolly’s tough hero? Perhaps…and that is also why the terrifying murderer known as the Collector may be inveigled into a strange partnership with Parker.

The customary mix of Chandlerian crime-solving and minatory Gothic atmosphere is fully in evidence here, and John Connolly’s instinct for this kind of material remains as unerring as ever.—Barry Forshaw

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