John Connolly is the best-selling author of a number of ass-kicking mystery and horror novels.
His main hero, private detective
Charlie Parker, is a bad-ass
anti-hero who sees dead people and keeps company with murderers and criminals. After the death of his wife and daughter he goes off the deep end, before resurfacing months later to wreak havoc on America's criminal underworld. There are currently twelve titles in the series: eleven novels and one novella, the latter of which can be found in the Nocturnes
collection. A further novel-length thriller, Bad Men
, is also set in the Charlie Parker universe but centres around a different set of characters and situations; like the Parker novels, depictions of human evil are offset by some genuinely scary supernatural visitations.
He has also written The Book of Lost Things
, a coming-of-age story set in London during WWII about a kid who gets lost in a fantasy world after a bomber crashes in his back garden, and Nocturnes
, a collection of short stories packed full of enough Nightmare Fuel
to scare the bejesus out of anyone. In May 2013 Connolly released a novella, 'The Wanderer in Unknown Realms', set in the interwar period and concerning a shell-shocked veteran who is hired to track down the owner of a Tome of Eldritch Lore
who has disappeared under mysterious circumstances; Word of God
has confirmed that it takes place in the Book of Lost Things
universe. Other works include the first two books in a darkly comic fantasy series for younger readers, Samuel Johnson vs. The Devil
Connolly has recently (as of Autumn 2012) announced his intention to take a two-year break
from writing Charlie Parker novels to concentrate on books for children and young adults, one of which promises to be the third (and, for the time being, final) Samuel Johnson novel. There is also the first novel in a four-part young adult sci-fi series, co-written with his partner. Both are due for release in October 2013.
Oh, and he's Irish. Who knew?
These works provide examples of:
- A Day in the Limelight: The Reapers focuses on Louis and Angel, although it's solely Louis's back story that's developed and which influences the present day plot. Meanwhile, Parker takes on their usual role among the supporting characters. Connolly hinted that he might one day give Angel a similar treatment, but nothing official has been announced yet.
- A Real Man Is a Killer: Deber's death is hinted to be this for Louis.
- Abusive Parents: Angel's father is never stated to have laid a finger on him but he sold him to paedophiles for booze money for eight years.
- Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Backstory is often presented in this manner.
- Aloof Ally: Walter Cole. The Collector is possibly beginning to settle into this as well, and it is implied that Louis occupied this role before the beginning of the series.
- Always Camp: Decorators, as hinted at in The White Road
He looked like a runway model for a decorator’s convention, assuming that the decorator’s tastes veered towards five-six, semi-retired gay burglars. Now that I thought about it, when I lived in East Village there were any number of decorators whose tastes veered in that direction
- Atonement Detective: Parker is the embodiment of this trope. The Black Angel suggests that this is the whole reason for Parker's existence in-universe. He is one of the angels the fell from heaven after Lucifer's revolt, but rather than descending to hell, he became stranded on earth, spending his many lifetimes helping others - dead and alive - in penance for his sins. However, the ending of The Wrath of Angels seems to refute this theory - according to various in-universe authorities there is a fallen angel present in the series recurring cast, but it isn't Charlie.
- Backstory: Copious amounts of it. In Bad Men and in the Parker Novels up until The Unquiet, characters would be introduced with pages of backstory, only to be killed off immediately.
- Badass Decay: Angel, from The Killing Kind onwards.
- Badass Gay: Louis and Angel.
- Baddie Flattery: Subverted. Parker delights in talking to the bad guys like this.
- Belated Backstory: It's stated in Every Dead Thing that Angel is "capable of stealing the fluff from under the president's nostrils", but backstory in The White Road tells us that he is in fact "the dumbest damn burglar since Watergate". In The Reapers it's reconciled somewhat, explaining that he is very technically proficient with security systems, but lacks tactical planning skills.
- Beta Couple: Angel and Louis to Charlie and Rachel, with additional support from Walter and Ellen Cole in the first couple of books. Overlaps at times with Shipper on Deck, as they all at some point or another encourage Charlie to pursue his relationship with Rachel. Later, after Charlie and Rachel break up, Angel and Louis spend a couple of books trying to encourage him to get with Sharon. As of late, they're pretty much shipping Charlie/any female character who has more than two lines of dialogue. Seems everyone's pretty worried about him...
- Beware the Nice Ones: Angel (it's in the name) and Rachel. Especially pregnant Rachel.
- Big Damn Heroes: Louis, usually accompanied by Angel. The Reapers puts Parker into the role.
- Black Knight: Parker, although he doesn't like it. Louis is a purer example.
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Susan, Sharon and Rachel or Susan, Aimee and Rachel. Fan and author opinion seems equally divided on whether Charlie's next love interest will be Sharon or Aimee, but either way, he's working his way through this trope.
- Body Horror: The rapidly spreading cancerous tumour in The Cancer Cowboy Rides.
- A (mostly) non-supernatural but nevertheless gruesome example in The Killing Kind with the books made of human flesh. The main characters don't realise what they're holding until they notice moles and a fragment of a tattoo on one page. Gets even worse when Angel becomes the next victim and has the skin of his back flayed off by the Big Bad.
- Bookworm: Arno in The Reapers, Earl in The Whisperers.
- Bound and Gagged: And tortured in The Whisperers.
- Break the Badass: Angel in The Killing Kind
- Break the Cutie: Rachel, in a process that is drawn out across five books.
- Breather Episode: The Killing Kind has shades of this - while the central mystery is easily as horrifying as those featured in the other books, the four main characters' personal lives are as happy and uneventful as they get at any point in the series. That is, until the last fifty pages or so, when Angel gets gruesomely tortured and Rachel discovers she's accidentally become pregnant.
- The Whisperers and The Burning Soul are more like actual breather episodes within the series. Again, the crimes being investigated are just as horrific as ever, but in both books Charlie is investigating cases he's actually been hired to look in to, which have nothing to do with the main characters or their ongoing story arcs. In fact Louis, Angel and Rachel barely appear in either book beyond their obligatory cameos, putting the emphasis strongly on Charlie investigating cases professionally that don't have much of a personal impact.
- The Cameo: Charlie Parker makes one in Bad Men, Connolly's only non-Parker crime/thriller to date. Sharon Macy (the lead detective from Bad Men) returns the favour in the eighth Parker novel, The Lovers and is implied to be Charlie's new love interest, although at the time of writing this seems to have lapsed into an Aborted Arc.
- Canon Welding: Bad Men takes place in the same universe as the Charlie Parker novels, confirmed by the fact that Charlie Parker and Sharon Macy make cameos in each other's stories from time to time.
- Word of God confirms that The Book of Lost Things and The Wanderer in Unknown Realms share a universe, although they don't share any characters and the settings are a couple of decades apart. Thematically the two are quite similar, however.
- Can't Bathe Without a Weapon: Louis.
- Casual Danger Dialogue
- Childhood Friend Romance: The third book in the Samuel Johnson trilogy sees him eventually fall in love with Maria, his childhood best friend. The Distant Finale reveals that they married and, fifty years on, have an apparent army of offspring spanning three generations to their great-grandchildren.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Charlie's dog Walter disappears around the time of The Unquiet, and no mention of him is made for five books until The Wrath of Angels, where he's only spoken of in passing with no explanation for his absence. While the reader might infer that he'd died off-screen, it's maybe more likely that Rachel took him when she and Sam moved away for good.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Parker is particularly prone to this.
- Collector of the Strange: The Collector. Duh.
- Commuting on a Bus: Angel and Louis have seen significantly less screen-time ever since The Reapers, whereas previously they were a constant background presence.
- Continuity Cameo: Parker appears near the start of Bad Men. Macy is considered as a possible love interest for Parker after her appearance at the end of The Lovers.
- Cool Car: Parker's Mustangs, possibly the Lexus (the mini-arsenal hidden beneath the spare tyre might help).
- Contract on the Hitman: Bliss.
- Crazy Dog Lady: Mrs Bondarchuck.
- Creepy Child: The changeling in The New Daughter, Jennifer, James Jessop...
- Creepy Doll: The New Daughter, and the cover art for The Unquiet.
- Curse Cut Short: Louis mutters "mother-" in The Black Angel, winning bonus points for not actually being interrupted by anything.
- Dark and Troubled Past: And then some!
- Dead Little Sister: Alice to Louis in The Black Angel. Though she's actually his cousin, they were raised together and this trope definitely applies to his actions following her death.
- Deadpan Snarker: Louis
- Death by Origin Story: Charlie's wife and daughter. Louis's mother and his (unacknowledged) father.
- Description Porn: Endless descriptions of the Maine landscapes, especially in winter. One memorable description of Louis' naked torso. Description of torture and death intended to strike fear into the hearts of the hero/villain.
- Dirty Business
- Dirty Cop: In Every Dead Thing and Bad Men.
- Distant Finale: The Samuel Johnson trilogy ends with a flash-forward to Samuel and Maria's fiftieth wedding anniversary.
- Doom Magnet: Charlie being one of these is basically the main drive behind the series. Louis is one as well, to a lesser extent.
- Dumb Muscle: Tony and Paulie Fulci, Jackie Garner, The Klan Killer(s).
- Ensemble Darkhorse: Angel and Louis, who eventually got their own book. More recently, the Collector seems to be becoming this.
- Embarrassing Nickname: Bird
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Jackie Garner, the Fulcis.
- First Episode Spoiler: Charlie begins to develop his supernatural powers (primarily in the form of I See Dead People) after meeting Tante Marie Aguillard in Every Dead Thing, who passes on the "gift" to him just hours before she is murdered.
- Flaw Exploitation: Notable in that Louis is aware of his "flaw", his love for Angel. However, while this comes up occasionally in the narrative, it is only relevant in one scene in which Louis doesn't even appear. The Big Bad took Angel at the end of The Killing Kind in order to hurt Parker, not Louis. He probably wasn't even aware of the inevitable consequences of his act.
- Freudian Excuse: Parker had never killed a man before the death of his wife and child. Angel’s first every burglary was the result of child abuse and Louis only became an assassin only after killing the man who murdered his mother.
- Friendless Background
- Friend to All Children: Parker, due to his daughter's death. Lampshaded on a couple of occasions. Angel as well, to an extent. particularly to children who have been sexually abused, as it relates heavily to his own childhood
- Friend on the Force: Walter Cole, SAC Ross.
- Gentle Giant: Joe Dupree in Bad Men, Bear in The Killing Kind.
- He Knows Too Much: Cebert Yaken and Virgil Gossard in The White Road. Scary in that it is invoked by the antagonists.
- Heroic BSOD: Parker's state of mind at the start of the series.
- High Hopes, Zero Talent: Angel's career as a burglar.
- The Informant: Angel acted as Charlie's informant prior to the beginning of the series, when Charlie was still with NYPD and Angel was still actively involved in B&E work.
- Kids Are Cruel: Louis was bullied in school.
- Lame Comeback: This gem from Every Dead Thing:
Louis: Says the guy with a towel on his dick.
Angel: It's a big towel.
- Let's Get Dangerous: Played with. Louis and Angel are the primary comic relief characters, but their general badassery and Louis' love of ammunitions means that as often as not they wind up saving the day.
- Police Brutality
- Posthumous Character: Susan and Jennifer
- Power Trio: Parker (id), Angel (ego) and Louis (superego).
- ˇThree Amigos!: Connolly's Samuel Johnson series for young adults has its own, kid-friendlier version of the Power Trio in the form of Sam, Tom and Maria, three school friends who accidentally witness the gates of Hell opening in their town. (So maybe not all that kid friendly, but none of them are assassins...)
- Prison Rape
- Put on a Bus: Rachel and Sam
- I Want to Be a Real Man: Angel played this for laughs in earlier books.
"It's a guy thing. I can do guy things."
- Impersonating an Officer: Louis gains the trust of a possibly witness in Every Dead Thing by flashing his gym membership.
- Incredibly Obvious Tail
- Insanity Defence: Faulkner invokes this with a suicide attempt.
- MacGyvering: Louis uses grain, rags and spare shotgun clips to blow up a barn, killing their immediate pursuers with the unintentional bonus of allowing their rescuers to find them.
- Mauve Shirt: Willie Brew and Jackie Garner.
- Mirror Scare: The Grady house in The Reflecting Eye is this dialled up to eleven.
- Monster Clown: In Some Kids Wander By Mistake, the eponymous children are transformed in clowns, terrifying creatures who wear heavy make-up to cover up the permanent face-paint.
- Murderer P.O.V.: It doesn't help that the good guys to almost as much killing as the bad guys.
- Neat Freak: Louis
- No Pronunciation Guide: A lot of readers were pronouncing Louis as "Lewis" for years. Word of God on the author's website FAQ confirmed the pronunciation as "Louie", but it wasn't clarified in-universe until the seventh book in the series.
- Noble Bigot with a Badge: Hanson. Although it takes a while for the "noble" part of the trope to come into effect.
- Opposites Attract
- One Head Taller: Louis and Angel
- Only One Name: Angel, Louis, Brightwell, Blue, Bliss, Gabriel, Golem, Kittim, Bear...
- Rape as Backstory: Angel was sold into prostitution by his father between the ages of eight and fourteen; his feelings of pain and betrayal are recounted in some of the most heartbreaking flashbacks in the entire series.
- Furthermore, this directly leads him into the life of crime which has him repeatedly incarcerated as an adult; during his final stint in prison, he attracts the attentions of a truly psychotic serial rapist and murderer - it's left vague as to whether he ever actually succeeds in raping him, but he does attempt to murder Angel at least once when he fights back, and nearly drives him to suicide through fear and desperation. It's Charlie's intervention to help Angel escape his abuser (by arranging to have the guy murdered) that cements their friendship as something more than a professional cop/informer dynamic.
- Scary Scorpions: Part of a ritual that takes place in a boarding school, created by combing the bones of the creature with the blood of a Scholarship Student.
- Selective Slaughter: Louis agreed to work as an assassin for Gabriel on the condition that he would never have to kill a woman.
- Leads to an interesting moment in The Reapers when Louis and Charlie both hesitate before shooting the female villain who just fatally shot Willie Brew and is about to shoot Louis, leaving Angel - who is the least inclined towards violence in general, and the only one of the three who gets no enjoyment from it - as the only one who can bring himself to kill a woman if the situation calls for it.
- Series Hiatus: Connolly has announced that there will be no new Charlie Parker novel in 2013-14, but hinted that the series will probably resume in 2015. Also, the third Samuel Johnson novel will be the last "for the time being".
- Spell My Name with a "The": The Collector
- Sympathetic Criminal: Angel, big time.
- Talk About the Weather: Angel does this in The Reapers, while being chased down by an assassin who is out for Louis' blood.
- Talking to the Dead
- Talking Your Way Out: Presumably how Angel survived his first encounter with Louis.
- Tell Me About My Father: The Lovers revolves around this trope.
- Terms of Endangerment: Parker has a tendency to do this, somewhat irking his enemies.
- The Promise: Set up in The Reapers, when Louis promises Angel that they will “deal with [the Russians] when the time comes”. Whether or not it will ever be carried out remains to be seen.
- Theme Naming
- There Are No Coincidences: "The honeycomb world", a recurring motif.
- Tome of Eldritch Lore: The main character in 'The Wanderer in Unknown Realms' is hired to find out what happened to an antiquarian book collector who acquired one and promptly disappeared.
- Ugly Cute: Angel, possibly.
- Undying Loyalty: Angel (and Louis, by extension) to Parker. Louis to Gabriel.
- The Un-Smile: Happens on the rare occasions when Louis attempts a smile. Even Angel describes it as looking more like a brief facial spasm or seizure. To people who are already afraid of him (in other words, most people who aren't Angel or Charlie) it's even more unnerving.
- Viral Transformation: In The Cancer Cowboy Rides.
- Walking Disaster Area: No-one exactly has an easy time of it in these books, but Charlie and Angel have both spent their entire lives getting kidnapped and tortured at regular intervals. In Angel's case it's occasionally Played for Laughs too though, with his perpetually dishevelled appearance and terrible fashion choices treated as an example of this trope.
- We Do Not Know Each Other: The first types is frequently invoked, particularly with Parker, Louis and Angel. The second type is played for laughs at Sam's Christening in The Black Angel when Louis pretends not to know Angel, who insists on following him around and talking to him - at the time Angel is wearing a suit so terrible that even casual bystanders are embarrassed.
- We Named the Monkey Jack: Charlie's dog Walter, whom he claims to have named after his old friend Walter Cole. No reason is given, although it's presumably affectionate, perhaps done because Walter is one of the few friends Charlie has left at the time he acquires the dog (and possibly the only one he's able to admit to knowing in public). In The Wrath of Angels, it's briefly mentioned that Cole still hasn't forgiven Charlie for naming the dog after him.
- White Collar Crime: Parker spends a while investigating such cases in order to make Rachel feel safer but he thinks it's sleazy work and it makes him feel unclean.