Connolly’s ‘Instruments of Darkness’ orchestrates another twisted tale…

John Connolly's latest 'Charlie Parker' outing is yet another page-turner, mixing the the procedural and the profane...

A woman named Colleen Clark is arrested after an investigation into her son’s disappearance uncovers a bloodied blanket in her car. Did she kill infant Henry Clark?  Subsequent news reports have started to turn her neighbours against her, her husband has moved out of the home and seems likely to be the prosecution’s willing witness.

Lawyer Moxie Castin has taken her case and brought on Charlie Parker to help with some of the legwork. Parker is no stranger with familial loss having lost his wife and daughter to a brutal and unholy attack years before and his dogged determination and unique insight into the darkness – human or otherwise – that drives people to do the most depraved things, makes him sadly ideal for the job. Neither he nor Moxie are yet as convinced of Colleen’s guilt as others seem to be and the more Parker investigates, the more loose threads appear. Clark’s husband had had an affair, but his dalliance seems full of contradictions. An apparently disgraced medium appears to be hearing Henry’s voice, but she’s been fooled before… and in a dark wood, in the middle of disrupted territory and multiple agendas, a strange house seems actively unwilling to give up its secrets.

As Parker investigates the pressure starts to build. The legal case seems destined to convict Colleen. But there are forces at work who would prefer that Parker’s existing reputation should see him in jail… or worse and they are willing to use plenty of people to be their instruments of darkness if it will help them get what they want…


*minor spoilers*

The Instruments of Darkness begins like a legal procedural, though even those new to the fold will quickly detect the darker undercurrents for which John Connolly and his creation Charlie Parker have become synonymous and it quickly settles into something… unsettling. Any story that concerns the abduction and likely death of a child is never going to (or should) let you get too comfortable and Connolly writes in a way that generates unease and tension and distrust with every page, adding layers and threads that you know he’s going to take his time in pulling together like a garrote tapestry.

Parker is something of a cynical fellow, rightly so because of life (and death) experiences and his familiarity with the darker realities of such. While the reader sometimes has more information and overview than the central character, Connolly generates a momentum that often makes the reader shift loyalties and opinions on the characters and story. He drops diamonds into the rough and  moments into proceedings when a slightly different decision could have sent the story in a different direction and it’s often these that decide the fates of characters, for better or worse. You can be unsure of where it’s all heading while being sure that it’s going to involve deep-cuts and shadows.

Connolly is an unapologetic lover of history and all sorts of lore and disorders – and some of his weightier tomes have seen him devote whole chapters detouring and displaying his considerable knowledge and research and real-life elements. Some of these have felt more essential than others – and your mileage may vary –  but, undeniably part of Connolly’s success has been in mixing those into his own stories and making them resonate on a primal level. The Instruments of Darkness contains a few background time-jumps but nothing that feels anything less than essential to more fully developing some of the supporting characters.

Loyal readers of the Charlie Parker novels will likely welcome their selective return as part of a bigger tapestry and mythology and if there are plentiful cogs in this particular clock, all ultimately serve a part in the eventual timepiece. (Regular mainstays Louis and Angel make a late appearance to proceedings but quickly make their presence known).  Connolly’s equal love of language makes the descriptions of his characters as delicious as ever and almost every line of banter sing. In fact, the darkest hues of this book make the moments of levity work even better. Yes, occasionally, some lowlifes and rednecks feel more loquacious than might be likely, but it’s the smallest of quibbles in a book that tries not to waste a single word or character moment.

There’s long been interest in transferring the Parker saga to the screen and though there’s no official sign of him following some of his private investigating peers to the likes of Netflix, HBO or Amazon Prime any time soon, it has to be said that The Instruments of Darkness feels like a story that could organically and eventually find its way to such a platform as a season-long story and very much hold its own, tying together a gritty mix of the sacred, the profane and the procedural and yet remaining tonally unique and special in the process.  This isn’t the sort of book that can be read in a single sitting, but it makes you eager to turn each page. It rewards long-term fans but feels one of the more accessible entry-points for those who are only now picking up an entry in what is becoming a fixed place on the bestseller lists.

As always, John Connolly’s latest is a highly-recommended read…

The Instruments of Darkness is published by Hodder and Stoughton in hardback now available through all good booksellers.


'The Instruments of Darkness'  (book review)
'The Instruments of Darkness' (book review)
  • Story