Charlie and his new partner, Rachel, are now expecting a baby. Charlie is understandably uneasy as his former wife and young daughter were brutally murdered. The murderer was caught but Charlie knows full well that there are still people out there who want to get him and would stop at nothing to achieve their aims.
He gets a call from a former colleague now living in South Carolina, Elliot Norton. Norton is a lawyer and has taken on the case of a young black man, Atys Jones, accused of raping and murdering his girlfriend. The case is high profile because the girl is a member of a white, well-to-do family in the Charleston area. Norton is asking Charlie for his help but Charlie is reluctant, partly because of Rachel's pregnancy and not wishing to leave her alone, but also the case is giving him a bad feeling. Faulkner, the religious psychopath who was involved in his last case, is in prison but likely to be bailed by a man also local to Charleston. Is there a connection with all that's going on?
Charlie somehow feels compelled to go to Charleston to help his friend, Norton, out. What he finds there is a tangled web of lies and deceit that go back forty or fifty years to the days of racial segregation, and even beyond. It seems that Atys Jones' mother and sister disappeared in suspicious circumstances. Slowly, Charlie discovers that a group of young white men were involved, who these boys were, and that they are all still alive. His involvement is apparently highly unpopular because of his reputation, but is that all there is to it? And then someone starts to murder the group of men, one by one...
This book is a lot more complicated than I have managed to describe. John Connolly writes fabulously complicated plots and you need to keep your wits about you when you embark on one of them. The background plots are always some kind of grisly murder but never, ever simple. Charlie Parker sees dead people, has done since the death of his wife and daughter. In this book the supernatural element is increased to the point where we begin to wonder what Charlie is. It's partially explained - I'm not saying how, but I have to admit to being somewhat gobsmacked at the ideas behind it all. John Connolly is such a classy horror writer, one of the best and certainly my favourite at the moment.
The other thing I just love about this series is that the author does not treat the reader as an idiot: so we get history and geography lessons. In this we learn a little about the history of slavery, racial segregation, what the area around Charleston, SC, is like, the swamps and so forth. I did not know, for instance, that rice was grown in South Carolina. I thought slavery was based mainly on cotton and sugar... but 'rice'... news to me. Fascinating.
There are now eleven books in this series, plus a novella in the anthology, Nocturnes. The indication seems to be that the novella fits in after The White Road - I haven't read it yet, so will probably read that after my current RIP read. So thrilled that there are still so many Charlie Parker books for me to enjoy. A word of warning - they're probably not for everyone!
An excellent first read for R.I.P. VII. If every book I read is a good as this one I shall be a happy bunny.