A Book of Bones: A book too long for its story

A Book of Bones by John ConnollyA Book of Bones by John ConnollyA Book of Bones by John Connolly

2019’s A Book of Bones is the 18th book in John Connolly’s CHARLIE PARKER series. This series is dark, with a thriller plot steeped in supernatural elements. Over the years, we’ve seen Parker, his human helpers Louis and Angel, and his supernatural protectors Sam and Jennifer face a variety of entities. A Book of Bones seems to resolve most of the issues around a specific Not-God and an evil murderous cult called the Familists. The two nasty villains, a book collector named Quayle and a creepy woman called Pallida Mors — a play on “Pale Death” — return from the previous book, and Parker is on their trail.

Parker is giving evidence in a child sex-trafficking case in Texas when he is called away by his FBI connection, Special Agent in Charge Ross, to a body dump in Arizona. All the signs point to this being a cartel murder, and the victim bears a resemblance to Mors, who was wounded by Louis in the previous book. Parker’s skeptical, though. He thinks this is a false trail and instead uncovers information that leads him to Amsterdam and London, where Quayle has his home base. Louis, Angel and an antiquarian bookseller named Bob Johnston come along.

Quayle, who is unnaturally long-lived, is searching for the final few pages of the mystical Atlas that will open the gates to other worlds, destroying this one. He thought he had found the final pages, but Parker confounded him. Quayle knows another way to fracture our world, though, and he has set that plan in motion through Mors.

The book shifts points of view, from Parker to Quayle, to the sordid Mors and a couple of different men, who are carrying out ritualistic murders on the command of Mors. Midway through the book we begin reading ephemera: letters, diary entries, scraps of historical accounts of encounters with the Atlas. Another supernatural entity makes an appearance about three-fourths of the way through the book, and I think Connolly is setting up the next book in the series.

A Book of Bones seemed much too long for its story. The thriller structure often uses POV shifts to increase the suspense, and this is nothing new in the PARKER series, but I found it hard to track in this one. Part of the problem is that the book, while moody and atmospheric as always, moved slowly. Part of it was that I hit my threshold of unpleasantness before I reached the end of the book, and we are in so many bad people’s heads for so long. The ephemera, a technique I usually love, irritated me because I wanted to get back to the story of Parker, Quayle, Johnston, Mors, and the Atlas.

On the plus side, the use of an historic British chapel and its famous stained glass windows was inventive and frightening, and I genuinely enjoyed the character of Bob. Angel had a brush with mortality in the previous book, and watching him and Louis deal with the consequences is interesting. As with all the Parker books, A Book of Bones is sprinkled with bits of dark wit and irreverent whimsy, like when Parker orders pizza and champagne for the two FBI agents assigned to escort him to Arizona, since they’re relegated to a chain hotel while Parker is put up in a five-star hotel suite. Parker charges the feast to SAC Ross’s account. That was fun, and funny.

If you plan to continue reading the CHARLIE PARKER series, you must read this one because much of it is clearly setting up the next multibook arc. In fact, that is one of its flaws. I don’t think the book’s full attention is on Parker’s story here, and it shows.

Published in 2019. Private Investigator Charlie Parker returns in this heart-pounding thriller as he seeks revenge against the darkest forces in the world, from the internationally bestselling author of the acclaimed The Woman in the Woods. He is our best hope. He is our last hope. On a lonely moor in northern England, the body of a young woman is discovered. In the south, a girl lies buried beneath a Saxon mound. To the southeast, the ruins of a priory hide a human skull. Each is a sacrifice, a summons. And something in the darkness has heard the call. Charlie Parker has also heard it and from the forests of Maine to the deserts of the Mexican border, from the canals of Amsterdam to the streets of London, he will track those who would cast the world into darkness. Parker fears no evil—but evil fears him. With John Connolly’s signature “blend of crime and supernatural horror” (Crime Reads), A Book of Bones is a terrifying and suspenseful thrill ride that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

SHARE:  Facebooktwitterredditpinteresttumblrmail  FOLLOW:  Facebooktwitterrsstumblr
If you plan to buy this book, you can support FanLit by clicking on the book cover above and buying it (and anything else) at Amazon. It costs you nothing extra, but Amazon pays us a small referral fee. Click any book cover or this link. We use this income to keep the site running. It pays for website hosting, postage for giveaways, and bookmarks and t-shirts. Thank you!

Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town. You can read her blog at deedsandwords.com, and follow her on Twitter: @mariond_d.

View all posts by

2 comments

  1. Kelly Lasiter /

    I hear you, Marion–I find that there’s really only so much time I want to spend in the head of the serial killer or what have you.

Review this book and/or Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *