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Literature / Charlie Parker Series

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An ongoing series of best-selling supernatural/horror/mystery novels by Irish author John Connolly, following the eponymous detective after the horrific murders of his wife and daughter.

Novels in the series to date:

  • Every Dead Thing (1999)
  • Dark Hollow (2000)
  • The Killing Kind (2001)
  • The White Road (2002)
  • The Black Angel (2005)
  • The Unquiet (2007)
  • The Reapers (2008)
  • The Lovers (2009)
  • The Whisperers (2010)
  • The Burning Soul (2011)
  • The Wrath of Angels (2012)
  • The Wolf in Winter (2014)
  • A Song of Shadows (2015)
  • A Time of Torment (2016)
  • A Game of Ghosts (2017)
  • The Woman in the Woods (2018)
  • A Book of Bones (2019)
  • The Dirty South (2020)

A novella, "The Reflecting Eye", is printed in Connolly's horror story anthology Nocturnes. It is set between The White Road and The Black Angel, and introduces a character who would go on to become an important part of the Parker mythology.

There is also another novel, Bad Men, set in the same universe that includes a brief cameo by Parker, and some of the survivors from Bad Men go on to become supporting characters in the Parker novels. See the John Connolly page for tropes relating to that book.

In 2019, A Book of Bones incorporates characters and events from Connolly's (initially stand-alone) 2013 novella "The Wanderer in Unknown Realms" into the Parker continuity. Word of God confirms that "The Wanderer in Unknown Realms" takes place in the same continuity as Connolly's other non-Parker novel, The Book of Lost Things... meaning that pretty much everything he's ever written now takes place in one big extended universe.

In 2020, due to the postponement of The Dirty South amid the coronavirus pandemic, Connolly began releasing a new Parker novella in short daily chapters via his website. "The Sisters Strange" was released at a rate of 600-700 words a day, beginning April 2.

The stories are often influenced by Judeo-Christian traditions, with later books also drawing on old English and colonial mythologies. Expect a cracking supporting cast, Nightmare Fuel, Grey-and-Grey Morality, musings on good/evil and right/wrong, snark, Description Porn, dead children, creepy children, Maine, and political agendas.

The Character Page is under construction.

Nothing to do with the musician Charlie Parker.


  • 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
  • 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
  • Anti-Hero
  • 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: Buckets of it. Especially in earlier books, characters would be introduced with pages and pages of it only to be killed off almost immediately. Various characters backstories also frequently inform the plot of the novels, such as in The Reapers and The Lovers.
  • Baddie Flattery: Subverted. Parker delights in talking to the bad guys like this.
  • Battle Couple: Louis and Angel, especially when they're required to play the Big Damn Heroes to Parker.
  • 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: What the Travelling Man does to his victims. Brightwell's goitre. The book made from human skin in The Killing Kind, complete with freckles, moles, tattoos, scars, navels... and, almost, the skin off Angel's back.
  • 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.
  • Can't Bathe Without a Weapon: Louis.
  • Career-Revealing Trait: Early in The Unquiet, a minor character by the name of Dave "The Guesser" Glovsky makes a comfortable living by wagering tourists that he can guess things like their weight, choice of car or occupation. Observant by nature, the Guesser accomplishes the latter by looking for distinctive signs on the punters, providing a paragraph of tells to look out for: accountants and typists have a slight flattening of the fingertips, chefs have tiny burns and scars on their hands, and so on. It's for this reason that the Guesser swiftly recognizes that his current customer has spent much of his adult life killing people and is immediately nervous.
  • Cargo Ship: invoked Angel speculates about Earl and Arnie's relationships with the cars they work on.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue
  • 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. Charlie leaves him with Rachel and Sam in Chapter 8 of The Lovers, realising his regular absences were not fair on the dog.
  • 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: Macy from Bad Men makes her first appearance here in 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: Jennifer
  • Creepy Doll: in some 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!
  • 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.
    • The Wolf in Winter has Charlie shot multiple times and left in a coma at around the halfway mark; he's still not woken up at the end of the book. Aside from a couple of scenes in his dream world, the novel switches to third person and follows several groups of secondary characters from then on: primarily Louis and Angel, but also Epstein, Macy, The Collector, and the residents of Prosperous.
  • 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: they pop up every now and then, but most notably Parker himself fit the bill in Every Dead Thing.
  • 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).
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The extreme violence present in the early books is missing from later books. This is done quite subtly though and isn't really noticeably unless read out-of-order.
    • Louis and Angel are very different in the first couple of books. Louis is far more intimidating and barely speaks, Angel is more confident and happy-go-lucky although certain events in The Killing Kind justify changes in his personality. It's difficult to imagine Louis in later books insisting on wearing a cowboy hat, in any circumstance. They flirt with each other, are described as "boyfriends" rather than "partners" and are generally a far more normal couple than later books make them out to be. Every Dead Thing also states they'd been together ten years at that point. The White Road, set a few years later, says they've been together six.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The thing living under Prosperous in The Wolf in Winter.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Bird
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Jackie Garner, the Fulcis.
  • First-Episode Twist: 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.
  • Freudian Trio: Parker (ego), Angel (id) and Louis (superego).
  • 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: 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 protagonists. Although thankfully for them both, they get away with a stern warning.
  • 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.
"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: pops up regularly
  • 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.
  • Murderer P.O.V.: It doesn't help that the good guys ddo almost as much killing as the bad guys.
  • Neat Freak: Louis
  • Noble Bigot with a Badge: Hanson. Although it takes a while for the "noble" part of the trope to come into effect.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: The White Road opens with Angel and Louis hunting down the men who lynched Louis' (probable) father. Angel kills an unarmed man in cold blood. Out of the main trio, Angel has always been the one least likely to kill, only doing so when lives depend on it. This murder is a sign of how much he's hurting after the events of The Killing Kind.
  • Opposites Attract
  • One Head Taller: Louis and Angel
  • Only One Name: Angel, Louis, Brightwell, Blue, Bliss, Gabriel, Golem, Kittim, Bear...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: Deber's death is hinted to be this for Louis.
  • 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.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": The Collector
  • 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.
  • Theme Naming
  • There Are No Coincidences: "The honeycomb world", a recurring motif.
  • Those Two Guys: The series dynamic sometimes seems to run on these pairings:
    • Louis and Angel, obviously.
    • Jackie Garner and the Fulci twins would be Those Three Guys. The Fulci twins also provide this on their own sometimes, particularly after Jackie's death in The Wrath of Angels.
    • Willie Brew and Arno are a platonic version of the Louis and Angel dynamic up until Willie dies in The Reapers.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Considering that Walter the Dog being named after Walter Cole was only mentioned several books after the fact, and that Walter Cole doesn't appear in the same book where the dog is introduced, it's even possible that it's a back-formation based on an unintentional duplication of the name, with Connolly explaining away why he broke the One-Steve Limit.
  • 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.