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The Burning Soul by John Connolly

The Burning Soul is the latest installment of the Charlie Parker series.  With Connolly's books it's sometimes hard to write reviews--the plots often have multiple strands that connect by the conclusion and it's hard to balance how much to include in the review to convey the flavor of the story without giving the entire thing away.  There is more hinting in this book that something bad is coming Parker's way at some point and that (possibly) something else bad is keeping tabs on him unless the entity keeping tabs is the same nastiness headed his way in which case it's not fair that evil's doing reconnaissance on an unsuspecting Parker!

Pastor's Bay is a tiny, insulated town on the Maine coast whose inhabitants are wary of outsiders and protective of its own citizens.  It has its small town, small time, petty crime, but little does it know that big government is luring some big city, big time, nasty criminals to its environs to orchestrate a take down of said criminals.  As most things do in this world, these plans go to hell and several people end up dead by the end of this ill advised operation.

Randall Haight keeps to himself, works from home and is determined not to mess up the second chance he's been given under a new identity after he and a friend did their time for murdering a girl when they were fourteen.  Haight's come to cherish his anonymous, mundane, haunted existence in Pastor's Bay until he starts receiving photos in the mail--photos that make clear that someone knows his secret, knows his true identity, knows his crime and is determined to make him squirm.  To resolve the issue Haight turns to his attorney who turns to Charlie Parker to investigate the identity and motive of Haight's harasser.

When another fourteen year old girl disappears from Pastor's Bay, Charlie realizes there may be a much more sinister motive driving the person targeting Haight if that someone is setting up a scapegoat to take the blame for the missing girl.  As Charlie delves into Haight's case and the periphery of the case of the missing girl, he can't shake the feeling that Haight is lying.  When anonymous texts are sent to Charlie's phone questioning the ethics and behavior of the Pastor's Bay police chief and accusing the chief of telling lies, Charlie starts looking into the chief's past, too.  In a story in which the truth is hidden by a veneer of lies and everyone's true motives are less than clear, one wonders what the lies hide and why and what the cost of revealing those lies will be for Charlie, for Haight and for Pastor's Bay.

This is an intricate, dark thriller with dual narrative threads.  Connolly's books are always page turners, but when focus switches to the secondary story line before it connects with the main narrative, the action slows down.  However, without the secondary story line's presence from the start, the resolution of the main narrative would fly out of thin air because so often the players of the secondary story line connect with the main story line.  Despite these minor quibbles, this is a first rate, must read for fans of the Parker series.  As a longtime fan myself, I find I'm more worried about the fact that Charlie's daughter seems to have some sense of the otherworldliness of her father and the implication that some ravens are spying on Charlie at the behest of an as yet unseen big bad villain.  I recommend you check out this book the next time you visit the library.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

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