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The Wrath of Angels by John Connolly

This is the latest installment in the epic adventures of the private investigator, Charlie Parker, the one whom evil fears.  Before I get to the review I just have to get somethings off my chest.

The whole premise of this book (allegedly, according to its jacket) is that Charlie Parker is hired to find a mysterious plane wreck out in the boonie nether regions of Maine.  His ulterior motive (besides finding it and securing it before the wrong people do) is that the wreckage contains a manuscript that lists the names of those who have sold their soul to the devil.  Charlie wants to find the list because he's afraid his name is on it.  Um.  If you sold your soul, don't you think you'd know it?  I'm pretty sure I'd recall making that transaction.

As I'm reading along (and obsessing about why wouldn't Charlie remember selling his soul, if indeed it was sold, and if not, then why would his name be on that list?) a question occurs to me: does John Connolly have an end game for Charlie Parker?  Has Connolly mapped out Charlie's story to some extent?  Is there an overall outline from which Connolly works for each Parker installment?  Or does he wing it with each novel in the sense that he doesn't have an ultimate destination in mind for our beloved, flawed hero?

The Lovers gave us the back story on Charlie and his parents' history while throughout the series we've gotten subtle hints as to the true nature and destiny of Charlie.  It's been hinted that something wicked twisted and evil keeps tabs on the flawed detective, that it might even fear Charlie.  It's also been hinted that something wicked--the same entity that keeps tabs on him or something else entirely we do not know-- is coming for Charlie, that Charlie has a more than minor role to play in the battle between 'good' and evil.  I quote good because anyone familiar with the series knows that the forces working against evil in this series are not your stereotypical, all sunshine and rainbows, good people.  Rather they are as formidable, intimidating, ruthless, merciless and dangerous as the forces they fight.

Originally I had hoped (and thought) that The Wrath of Angels would give more of an insight into the very nature of Charlie and that this would be further explored--is he the savior that will tip the scales in favor of the forces of good in the epic confrontation that seems to be coming?  Is he a fallen angel looking for redemption?  Or is he something else entirely?  Writing this now, I see that only one of these questions is answered, while another is raised in the book itself--but we do not get much insight into the nature of Charlie other than it seems that the forces of the great evil would rather see him destroyed.

In a bar in Maine Charlie is told of a mysterious plane crash in the Great North Woods of Maine (the aforementioned 'boonie nether regions' although the boondocks of Maine's boondocks would also be an apt description).  No bodies were found in the wreckage that nature and the forest are determined to reclaim as it sinks into the forest floor.  Recovered from the wreckage is a bag of several hundred thousand dollars; left in the wreckage is a satchel that contains an old manuscript of a list of names, dates and notations.  Charlie's given a single sheet of paper taken from the satchel as insurance.  Now the men who stumbled upon the wreckage years ago have died, and their next of kin have brought the story of the forest and the wreckage it hides as well as the sheet of names to Charlie.  Charlies advises them to leave the paper with him and to tell no one else of the plane lest they bring the wrong people down upon them.

Charlie turns to old, uneasy allies to suss out the meaning of the list of names and assist in locating the plane wreckage in Maine's no man's land.  When his ally, Rabbi Epstein, produces another, newer list of names from a different source, the mission becomes personal for Charlie.  For this newer list of names contains his own written in red ink without any dates or notations beside it.  Why is his name on the list?  What does it mean?

Unfortunately others have been set upon the list waiting in the wreckage; there are those from Brightwell's cult, who call themselves the Believers or the Army of Night, who want the list returned to them.  There is also the Collector, the serial killer who dispatches those whose souls are found wanting, who wants the list of damned souls to further add to his collection.  There are dark ghosts who populate the forest, preying on those who lose their way and stray into this dark territory, and there is also whatever or whoever was handcuffed to the passenger seat in that plane that survived the crash.  And it is into this dark territory where man is at the mercy of nature into which Charlie leads an expedition on a collision course with these dark forces.

This is a terrifying, suspenseful, spooky, lyrical page turner with genre bending storytelling; there are hints of horror, supernatural, mystery, and suspense as Connolly weaves a spellbinding story that takes Charlie further along the path to what hints to be an epic, terrifying confrontation.  The stakes are high and nothing short of the fate of the world lies in the balance.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

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