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Book Author: John Connolly

THE FURIES by John Connolly: Book Review

It’s no small thing for an author to create a sense of unrelenting doom and violence simply by the use of language and mood.  This is what John Connolly does in his latest novel, The Sisters Strange, the first of two books in the volume titled The Furies.

Charlie Parker is a private investigator in Portland, Maine, but the story opens in the small Pennsylvania town of Athens.  Edwin Ellerkamp has spent his entire life there, a life that is soon to end, not because he is eighty but because of the coin collection he has accrued over the years.  When Ellerkamp is found by his part-time housekeeper in the living room of the house he lived in by himself, coins are spilling out of his mouth and onto his chest.

The story switches to Portland.  Parker and a friend are drinking in the Great Lost Bear, bemoaning the trendy city that is the new Portland.  No more decrepit wharfs on Commercial Street or empty lots on Congress Street, he thinks to himself.  But still, some things never change is his next thought, as Raum Buker walks into the bar.

Charlie has known Raum for years, and he has never found anything good to say or think about him.  He describes him as a “toxic, inverted deity” who has never forgotten or forgiven a slight, real or imagined.

Now a friend of Charlie’s, Will Quinn, comes to the private eye for help.  Will has been dating a woman named Dolors Strange, perhaps the first woman with whom he has ever been romantically involved.  That would be fine except that she is also romantically linked to Raum; to make the situation even more bizarre, so is her sister Ambar.

To add to the strangeness of the situation, Dolors tells Will that although she likes him, she doesn’t want to see him any longer, and Will believes it’s because she’s afraid that word will get back to Raum.

Back in Athens, Pennsylvania, Reuben Hapgood is about to open his small store.  It’s a shop with a bit of everything of value to collectors, but his specialty is coins.  Waiting for him one morning is a man who doesn’t look in the best of health, but his physical appearance is made intimidating by the small pistol he holds in his hand.  The man introduces himself as Kepler and tells Hapgood, “I think you may have something that belongs to me.”

It takes a while for readers to make the connection between Charlie Parker, Raum Buker, and Kepler, but John Connolly connects the dots so masterfully that one doesn’t mind waiting.  There’s an incredible menacing cloud hanging over all the characters in this novel, and while you may not be certain of just what will happen, you sense it will be really bad.

John Connolly has written an outstanding crime novel with a remarkable protagonist and cast of characters.  You can read more about the author at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

BOOKS TO DIE FOR by John Connolly and Declan Burke: Book Review

My favorite mystery book store, Mainely Murders in Kennebunk, Maine, puts out a terrific monthly newsletter.  One of the books Paula and Ann highlighted for February sounded fascinating, so I ordered it.  The book’s subtitle, The World’s Greatest Mystery Writers on the World’s Greatest Mystery Novels, says it all.

The book begins with The Dupin Tales by Edgar Allan Poe (1841) and ends with The Perk by Mark Gimenez (2008).  There are names familiar to all mystery lovers:  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Dame Agatha Christie, Patricia Highsmith; and names not so well known or totally unknown (to me, at least):  Robert Wilson, Peter Temple, Perihan Magden.  There are books from England, France, Italy, South Africa, Switzerland, and of course the United States.

What makes this anthology so interesting to me is that rather than the novels being the choices of only the two editors, Connolly and Burke went to 119 contemporary mystery authors, asking each to choose a mystery that had had a great influence on him or her.  Those writers chose books ranging from the expected (Linda Barnes wrote about The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Conan Doyle) to the unexpected (Liza Marklund wrote about The Ghost of Blackwood Hall by Carolyn Keene).

Also interesting to me are which books were chosen and which were not.  I’m a huge Agatha Christie fan, but the two books picked for this anthology, Murder on the Orient Express and Endless Night, would never have made my list; I much prefer The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and And Then There Were None/aka Ten Little Indians.  In addition, Raymond Chandler leaves me cold, yet his Farewell, My Lovely and The Little Sister are on the list.

I can’t decide what is the best part of Books to Die For; whether it reminds me of books I’d read but really would like to re-read (The Steam Pig by James McClure) or books I’d never heard of but sound terrific (The Long-Legged Fly by James Sallis).  Either way, thanks to Paula and Ann for alerting me to Books to Die ForCheck out their website ( for everything you want to know about mysteries and sign up for their free monthly newsletter.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Reads blog at this web site.