Title: The Reapers
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Paperback: 544 pages
Publication Date: 01/01/2009
If you’re looking for a light and fluffy read the John Connolly isn’t the author for you. Macabre, gothic and with a hint of the supernatural about them, his novels are brilliantly and bloodily dark, and The Reapers is no exception [the cover shoutline – Blood Will Flow – is an apt warning for what is to come].
In a bold move, Connolly has made the much-loved duo of Louis and Angel [the former, an assassin or “reaper”, and the latter a genius with locks] the focus of the novel. Although they have both appeared numerous times in the Charlie Parker series, the oddly moral pair [Louis refuses to kill women and murders a human-trafficker in the Reapers] have been enigmatically cipherous until this point. Parker himself [not to be confused with the jazz musician or Dorothy L. Sayers’s literary detective, both of the same name] has a small, almost peripheral role in this book.
However, this change in structure and direction works incredibly well; on the one hand giving greater depth and texture to the previously supporting-cast characters of Angel and Louis [we find out about Louis’s troubled Southern upbringing and how he avenged his mother’s murder], whilst on the other hand allowing the reader to view ex-detective [and now ex-PI, having lost his licence] Parker from a completely new perspective.
The plot itself finds Louis and Angel in a unique situation, no longer the hunters but the hunted, they are being stalked by Bliss, the assassin of assassins, a man from Louis’s murky past with a personal score to settle. But it soon transpires that Bliss is not the only individual seeking vengeance on Louis, and when the pair find themselves trapped in small, remote town [invoking the perennial trope of the Western – the climactic blaze of bullets], you know that things are going to get very violent and very bloody.
By Connolly’s normal standards the prose is positively sparse, paring down the lengthy descriptions and use of multiple subsidiary clauses usually found in his books. However, this is obviously a conscious decision and in fact compliments and adds to the fast, thriller-ish pace of the second-half of the novel. And what is especially impressive is that this is all achieved without impacting upon the lyrical and allusive nature that makes Connolly’s brand of fiction so distinctive. Mixing noir and gothic elements to wonderful effect, this is a grittily brilliant read.