There are so many killings, so many victims, so many lives lost and ruined every day, that it can be hard to keep track of them all, hard to make the connections that might bring cases to a close ... One death invites the next, extending a pale hand in greeting, grinning as the ax falls, the blade cuts. There is a chain of events that can easily be reconstructed, a clear trail for the law to follow.
from chapter 1, page 13 of The Reapers
The Reapers by John Connolly can be considered a stand alone novel. Although references are made to past events from the Charlie Parker series (see related YouTube review here by yours truly) and characters recur from previous Parker books, this is not a Parker novel. You don't really need to read any of the other Parker novels before you read this one.
There was once a fraternity of killers of killers; they were called Reapers. Louis, our friendly neighborhood assassin who often helps out Charlie Parker on particularly nasty cases, is a Reaper. Now someone wants both Louis and his partner, Angel, dead. The people who want them dead are willing to kill many people close to Louis and Angel, set up an elaborate ruse, and hire a seriously twisted Reaper with a personal vendetta against Louis to get the job done. For once, it is Charlie Parker who must bail Louis and Angel out of some twisted trouble.
This is related to Connolly's Parker series in that it focuses on Louis and Angel, two colorful characters who often appear in supporting roles in the Parker books, and Parker also appears in a supporting role in this novel. We are treated to a fairly detailed survey of the most important events in Louis' past that have made him what he is today. This novel also has a different feeling from the Parker novels. Its tension is tightly wound--because throughout the entire book one wonders if it all ends with Angel and Louis in a couple of body bags. It is also not necessarily a mystery/who dunnit type of story. Instead it feels more like an action movie wrapped up in a novel with a mystery for a subplot. Most of the mystery comes from trying to figure out who is after Louis and Angel and why--this goes for the people hiring the assassin as well as the assassin himself.
Connolly's writing is beautiful and lyrical, and he has a knack for drawing colorful, eccentric characters; this is especially evident in the Parker novels. It felt like this novel moved more slowly than others because a lot of it looks backward into Louis' past and some chapters, particularly early ones, are rather long.
I started this book a month ago and just finished it this past weekend. I must say I battled a case of reader's block with this one (like writer's block, except one's reading is blocked). I did read another book and two graphic novels while I read this book. One factor in the difficulty in reading this one may have been my anxiety about what the ending might bring-- would Louis and Angel survive to bail Parker's butt out of some future nasty mess in Connolly's next novel? One can only hope. And am I twisted because I really did not want to see this all end with Louis and Angel in a couple of body bags even though one could argue they brought it on themselves because of sins in their past and present... and most likely future?
I highly recommend you check this book out of the Matthews Public Library or request it from the Annville Free Library. You won't regret it.
--reviewed by Ms. Angie