Randall Haight has a secret: when he was a teenager, he and his friend killed a 14-year-old girl.

Randall did his time and built a new life in the small Maine town of Pastor’s Bay, but somebody has discovered the truth about Randall. He is being tormented by anonymous messages, haunting reminders of his past crime, and he wants private detective Charlie Parker to make it stop.

But another 14-year-old girl has gone missing, this time from Pastor’s Bay, and the missing girl’s family has its own secrets to protect. Now Parker must unravel a web of deceit involving the police, the FBI, a doomed mobster named Tommy Morris, and Randall Haight himself.

Because Randall Haight is telling lies . . .

The Burning Soul by John Connolly

The Burning Soul by John Connolly

I’ve always maintained that cover art is incredibly important, perhaps not so much for established authors like John Connolly, but an attractive cover certainly invites new readers to explore the unread delights hidden within and a poor one will have you putting the book back on the shelf, moving swiftly on to the next title that catches your eye. John Connolly’s The Burning Soul book jacket is both impressive and alluring and includes an image of a young girl, ravens and a blazing fire adorning front and centre. However, despite a good first impression, I have to say I was slightly confused having never read any of the Charlie Parker series – this being the 10th outing – I wasn’t sure if this was a supernatural thriller, plain crime/detective book or mixture of both!.

The Burning Soul is a thoroughly entertaining and intelligent novel and although I was expecting a polished title when I began reading, it did take me by surprise – always a bonus when that happens. With a multi layered plot and intelligent unhindered narrative I was blown away by the astonishing amount of depth the book had. The majority of the book is set in Pastor’s Bay in Maine and although I’m still not sure if it exists in real life (yes I did search google!) I found the town history fascinating. Whether talking about being founded in 1787, the illegality of hunting on Sundays in Maine, Amber alerts or the fact that police officers consider the first three hours of a child abduction crucial – if not found within the three hours the child is presumed dead – everything is covered in great detail and yet somehow maintains a fluidity throughout.

Given this is the 10th novel in the Charlie Parker series I was slightly concerned that I would struggle jumping head first into a well-established series. With so much water under the bridge – Charlie’s relationships, career, trouble with the law, Angel and Louis’s partnership – I wasn’t quite sure if my lack of understanding and knowledge would hold me back. Although past events are briefly mentioned in The Burning Soul (won’t mention them here for fear of spoilers) I didn’t find my lack of reading held me back too much but as with any long standing series, more background history would have increased my already satisfied fulfilment.

I’ve already touched on the fluidity of the narrative but one of the delights for me was the occasional humour I came across either from Charlie Parker or special agent Engel. It certainly made me laugh in places including a rather humorous exchange between Aimee and Charlie Parker where the private investigator is interested in her marriage prospects:

I’m just thinking about the free legal aid.

Thanks. If you keep getting picked up for asking awkward questions, you’ll need to drive around with permanent counsel in the passenger seat of that man toy you drive.

It’s just a car.

A Camry is just a car. That’s a midlife crisis on wheels.  

Counteracting this humour were some dark and disturbing moments but without question the most atmospheric and psychological scene of the entire book for me was when Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd woke Parker up in the middle of the night – I kid you not! Cautiously making his way downstairs – certain he’d turned the television off before going to bed – Parker begins to wonder who else is in the house save for the Looney Tunes cartoon characters. Careful not to make any unnecessary noise he begins to search …..

Development of the plot is crucial in any book and Connolly certainly delivers in droves with this title. Comparing the book to a car – not a Camry by the way – It begins slowly in first gear, careful not to overheat the engine, mindful of the coolant temperature, but with each passing chapter it steadily picks up pace moving rhythmically through the gears until Connolly brings everything together for a climactic dénouement in the sixth and final gear. The final 80 pages went by in a blur with so much happening I didn’t know which way to turn and more to the point neither did Parker! I was impressed by how the author brought everything together complete with the obligatory unexpected twists and turns to keep things interesting until the final throws.

Published by Hodder The Burning Soul is not to be missed, highly recommended – available to buy in hardback & kindle.

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3 Responses to “The Burning Soul by John Connolly – Book Review”

  1. Nikki-ann says:

    It’s good to know that a reader can jump into this book without having read the other books in the series. I’ve heard good things about the Charlie Parker series and this definitely sounds like one to read! :)

  2. Gordy-Mac says:

    Anyone worried about not reading the other books shouldn’t worry about reading this book first! You can just jump in and then catch up on the others. Though as a fan of the series, others that have read them might feel slighty let down by the fact John doesn’t fully explore ‘where Charlie is headed’, but one of the best books he hasn’t written for sure.

  3. […] Burning Soul has been reviewed at Milo’s Rambles, Crime Scene NI, The Mystery Bookshelf, Publishers Weekly, Amazon customer […]

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