John Connolly’s Wrath of Angels is the Eleventh book in the Charlie Parker (Private Investigator) series. According to the publisher this can be read as a standalone novel without having read the previous Parker books but I’d strongly recommend starting way back with Every Dead Thing, the first one, and reading through in order. Things make a whole lot more sense then!
I confess I was a little worried for this book because I thought the last book, The Burning Soul, while not a bad book in itself, was the weakest in the whole series. In truth The Whisperers (the one before Burning Soul) left me a little disappointed also. A few other reviewers also seemed to sense a weariness in Connolly’s past few books, or at least a dip in form. They weren’t bad books, Connolly seems incapable of writing a poor story, but they weren’t up to his usual very high standards.
But The Wrath of Angels is almost up there with Black Angel as the best in the series for me. It is dark and there are only sparse moments of humour and, for me, some work and some don’t. The only bits I thought suspect in the book were that occasionally the humour seems forced, particularly between Parker, Angel and Louis (Parker’s gay friends/protectors, one black and one white, and they are one of the most endearing partnerships in fiction), which is usually a draw for the books.
I’m not sure why but I felt there were occasions when Connolly’s own voice came through in the dialogue and he was trying a bit too hard to be funny, rather than letting the characters speak for themselves. I know that sounds daft given it’s Connolly writing the book but it was my impression.
The other weakness was that, as another reviewer has stated, Parker seems to be mellowing a little or becoming more ponderous as he ages. He also seems less prone to choose violence as a first resort. The violence in the book comes from others. But it is still a definite return to form and once more Connolly shows his skill at creating truly horrifying villains. These, married to the truly spooky ‘crashed plane in the forest’ setting (although Parker and Co don’t enter the forest till late in the book) and the return of the terrifying Brightwell, the frankly freaky Collector, and a Rabbi (whose role in life is to track down fallen angels) and his trained assassin’s, makes for a mostly thrilling read.
Connolly’s Parker books have always merged this worldly events with the supernatural. Lately, Parker has wrestled with the question of whether or not he is himself a fallen angel, perhaps seeking some kind of redemption through vengeance on the guilty. Wrath of Angels has done for me what the two previous books haven’t, left me wanting to jump straight into the next one. That’s a very good thing.
There is a compelling, if dark, spirituality running through the Parker novels and this one is no different. It will be curious to see where Connolly takes Parker from here. This book probably can be read on its own but it is definitely advisable to start from the first book, Every Dead Thing, and read in order from there.