A Time of Torment: A Charlie Parker Thriller: 14

A Time of Torment: A Charlie Parker Thriller: 14

Jerome Burnel was once a hero. He intervened to prevent multiple killings and in doing so damned himself. His life was torn apart. He was imprisoned, brutalized.

But in his final days, with the hunters circling, he tells his story to private detective Charlie Parker. He speaks of the girl who was marked for death but was saved, of the ones who tormented him, and an entity that hides in a ruined stockade.

Parker is not like other men. He died, and was reborn. He is ready to wage war.

Now he will descend upon a strange, isolated community called the Cut, and face down a force of men who rule by terror, intimidation, and murder.

All in the name of the being they serve.

All in the name of the Dead King.

Magnificent, magisterial and masterful – three words that could easily describe both John Connolly’s writing and his creation Charlie Parker. It’s great to have Charlie Parker back, life certainly wouldn’t be the same without an adventure from the private detective, a private detective who’s baggage increases with each outing. There’s no shortage of depth in this novel either, thanks mainly to Parker. It’s the depth of his character that’s so good, Connolly effortlessly allowing the reader an insight into his feelings and an opportunity to share his immeasurable pain born from past experiences.

There’s very little to say that hasn’t been said in the past but John Connolly improves with each novel, there’s no fear of an author resting on his laurels here, Connolly knows what works and sticks with the format time after time but like a good bottle of wine, with maturity comes excellence.

Charlie Parker is one of those characters you’d want on your side. Imagine the scene in school as a kid, you’re faced with a decision that could affect the rest of your days in school, the dreaded pick your team scenario. With Parker it’s a case of do I pick him first or second, Jack Reacher or Charlie Parker (two very different protagonists), two veritable champions, because there’s never the option of not choosing him! Not having him on your team would be a huge mistake and many a bad person have paid the price in the past and will no doubt suffer in the future!

The narrative is as strong as ever and the plotting is both complex and inspired, how Connolly brings this together in the end is crazy! Amazing writing. The tempo increases towards the end of the book, so much so that you feel as if you’re holding your breath on numerous occasions. There are a few shocks in store, Connolly is never one to shy away from violence and there’s definitely no shortage of that in A Time of Torment, this is in parts quite brutal!

Characterisation is good and we get to have another outing with Angel and Louis, two great characters that were introduced to us in Every Dead Thing in 1999, the year that Charlie Parker himself, a former NYPD detective, was introduced to the world. The sidekicks are great value and the books would certainly be lighter without the duo creating havoc and mayhem. Don’t worry, there’s more than enough bad guys to satisfy all readers here!

Another wonderful read, A Time of Torment stands alone well but as with any long standing series, the more you’ve read the more you take from the books. So get reading the back catalogue, you won’t be sorry! Bravo Mr Connolly!

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (7 April 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1444751573
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444751574
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The Chill of Night

The Chill of Night

Like a lot of writers, one of the questions I get asked most often at readings and other public events is, “The people in your books seem so real. How do you get so completely into the heads of the characters you create?”

In some cases it’s relatively easy.  My ongoing hero, Detective Sergeant Michael McCabe was created to a large extent in my own image.  All I really had to do was imagine myself as a career homicide detective rather than as a career writer. McCabe and I are both native New Yorkers who moved from the big city to Portland, Maine for both personal and professional reasons.  We both share a love of old movie trivia and good scotch. We both have slightly warped senses of humor. We’re both avid New York Giants fans. And we both live with and love women who are talented and successful artists.

There are also a lot of differences.  As I’ve often noted before, McCabe’s braver than I am. He’s a better shot.  He likes boxing. He doesn’t throw up at autopsies. And McCabe’s favorite Portland bar, Tallulah’s, is, sadly, a figment of my imagination while my favorite Portland bars are all very real.   In any event, McCabe and I are very much alike. In order to communicate what McCabe is thinking or feeling, or how he will react in difficult or dangerous situations all I really have to do is look inward.

The same holds true for McCabe’s partner, Maggie Savage.  Much of what Maggie thinks and feels grew out of discussions I’ve had with my daughter Kate, a woman who is roughly Maggie’s age and who shares many of her ideas and attitudes.

The challenge of making characters real becomes a lot tougher when the character in question is totally different either from me or from any of the people I know intimately. It got a whole lot tougher in the case of Abby Quinn, the witness to the murder in the second McCabe thriller, The Chill of Night.  Abby is a twenty-five year old woman, the daughter of a deceased Maine lobsterman who was born, raised and still lives on a small island in Casco Bay, a mile and a half out to sea from the city of Portland. More critically she’s also mentally ill.  She was diagnosed as schizophrenic in her early twenties, and has since tried to commit suicide twice by throwing herself off the rocks into the ocean. She can only live an approximately normal life by staying on a strict regimen of anti-psychotic drugs.  To make Abby real, I had to try to begin to understand what living inside the mind of a young female schizophrenic must be like.

I started by discussing the general subject of schizophrenia with an old friend, Dr. Ted McCarthy, who is head of Psychiatry at Mercy Hospital in Portland.  Ted told me a lot about what is known about the disease and a lot about the effectiveness and side-effects of many of the anti-psychotic medications currently prescribed to control the symptoms.  He also told me pretty much what my fictional psychiatrist, Dr. Richard Wolfe, tells McCabe when McCabe asks him  if Abby might have committed the murder herself:

“Abby’s schizophrenic. She inhabits an alternate reality. If she’s been off her meds for a while–or if they’re starting to lose their effectiveness–she’s capable of damned near anything.”

“So you’re saying she invented the story of the monster with his face on fire?”

“No. Probably not,” Wolfe said. “A monster with his face on fire may in fact be exactly what she saw whether she killed Goff herself or just witnessed the murder. Either way.”

 “You better help me with that, doctor. I’m a little slow today.”

“Let me give you a little background. Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that’s characterized, more than anything else, by a profound disconnect between perception and reality. Like most schizophrenics Abby suffers from delusions, things that are false but that she believes to be real. She also suffers from hallucinations. False sensory perceptions.   She’s sees and hears things that aren’t there. But she really does see them. And hear them. They’re as real to her as that coconut shrimp you’re eating is to you.”

James Hayman

James Hayman

As helpful as my discussions with Dr. McCarthy were and as well as other general research I did on the subject on Google, I felt neither gave me the genuine sense I wanted of what it really was like to be Abby Quinn, to live inside head of a young schizophrenic, to experience the alternate reality McCarthy described first hand.

For that I turned to several very special books.  The first was a novel titled Lowboy by a writer named John Wray.  Lowboy tells the story of a fifteen-year old male schizophrenic living in New York City who spends most of his time riding the New York subway system and encountering a number of others who inhabit this strange subterranean world. According to an interview on NPR (National Public Radio), to do his research, Wray had himself committed as a patient in a psychiatric hospital for several weeks living  with and observing schizophrenics first hand. My research didn’t go quite that far.

Instead, I read a number of memoirs written by schizophrenics that described in heart-rending detail what it must have been like for the authors to have suffered from this dreadful disease. Two of these books stood out.  Both are mentioned in the acknowledgements in The Chill of Night.  The first was The Quiet Room: A Journey Out of the Torment of Madness by Lori Schiller and Amanda Bennett.  The second was The Center Cannot Hold:My Journey Through Madness by a remarkable woman named Elyn R. Saks who, in spite of her illness, has become one of America’s leading experts on the law as it pertains to the mentally ill.

James Hayman on the web and twitter – why not pay a vist to learn more.

Reviews:- The Cutting (McCabe 1) and The Chill of Night (McCabe 2) and an Interview with James Hayman.

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The Chill of Night by James Hayman

The Chill of Night by James Hayman

A frozen corpse means a big headache for Detective Michael McCabe

Lainie Goff thinks she has it all. A glamorous young Portland attorney with the brains and looks to match her ambitions, she’s on the fast-track to a partnership. Until one cold winter night she discovers that her belief in her ability to handle any situation was misplaced. Now she’s just a frozen corpse in the boot of a car at the end of Portland Fish Pier.

And a problem for homicide detective Michael McCabe.

Luckily for McCabe, there’s a witness. A mentally disturbed young woman named Abby Quinn saw what happened to Lainie. Unfortunately, Abby mysteriously goes missing the very same night. With a victim who’d known more than her share of bad guys, a list of suspects that seems to get longer and longer and his only witness missing, McCabe has got his work cut out.

But it’s only a matter of time before the killer strikes again . . .

I have to admit I was very excited when I received James Hayman’s follow up to The Cutting in the post a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t wait to see what Mike McCabe would get up to this time around, re visiting Portland Maine in the process. His debut title was so good; I just hoped his second lived up to my expectations.

This book is all about one woman witnessing a murder but when she tries to tell the police about the crime they don’t believe her. We soon discover why the police are reticent to find her a credible witness but there’s one person who doesn’t let sleeping dogs lie – Detective Mike McCabe. Abby, a 25 year old woman who grew up on Harts Island – a small fictional island in Casco Bay Maine – is an intriguing character with so much depth and a well-developed back story. Although she had a regular childhood she begins hearing voices in her teens and is diagnosed as a schizophrenic.

Knowing very little about schizophrenia as I do I found the whole subject matter intriguing and poignant, Hayman dealt with the illness with so much compassion and tenderness. He doesn’t rush her scenes and I truly felt part of her story and her complex life. I could quite clearly get inside her head and see the world as she saw it – a frightening and frustrating place at times. In one scene we find Abby picking up a tennis racquet, swinging it for all her might, and refusing to put it down. When Hayman writes about a simple backhand stroke its simplicity took my breath away. I was in that very room watching Abby fall apart. Sensational stuff.

Of course it’s not all about Abby. McCabe is back with his love of Movie trivia, music and an undeniable infatuation with Macallan single malt Whisky. One of the things I enjoyed about The Cutting was Hayman’s obvious love for the cinematic world and he continues the theme in this book including a shout out to Jaws 4 – This time it’s personal – which made me laugh.

Although another cracking read The Chill of Night didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but then again, following such an engaging thriller – and debut – was always going to be a tough job. Don’t get me wrong, this is a terrific read and Hayman’s personality shines through adding that little something extra to this second McCabe title. I certainly can’t wait for the third title in the series!

For me, and hardly surprising given the subject matter, this title represents a more grown up side to Hayman. A well delivered thriller, a strong deduction that will surprise a few people, this book was all about Abby. She stole the show with her highly complex double life that will leave you wanting to know more about the young woman.

With an emphasis on crime scene forensics, police investigation and a terrifically taut narrative, The Chill of Night is another assured offering from James Hayman. You certainly gain an insight into how police investigate a murder and the pitfalls they face along the way.

Published by Penguin, The Chill of Night is available in both Paperback & Kindle formats.

416 Pages ·  ISBN-10: 0141047305 ·  ISBN-13: 978-0141047300

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