"Another fascinating read from the pen of the great John Connolly. Here is an author that seems to be totally in control of his writing and at the top of his game."
"An absorbing tale of sin, punishment, atonement and redemption."
"A solid thriller: well paced, suspenseful, frequently funny and often genuinely surprising."
A Game of Ghosts
Parker hunts for a missing PI who'd been pursuing deadly tales of hauntings.
It is deep winter. The darkness is unending. The private detective named Jaycob Eklund has vanished, and Charlie Parker is dispatched to track him down. Parker's employer, Edgar Ross, an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has his own reasons for wanting Eklund found. Eklund is no ordinary investigator. He is obsessively tracking a series of homicides and disappearances, each linked to reports of hauntings. Now Parker will be drawn into Eklund's world, a realm in which the monstrous Mother rules a crumbling criminal empire, in which men strike bargains with angels, and in which the innocent and guilty alike are pawns in a game of ghosts . . .
A new fall of snow had settled upon the old, like memories, like the years.
It would freeze, too, according to the weathermen, adding another layer to the ice that blanketed the city, and another day or two to the slow thaw that must inevitably come, although any release from the cold seemed distant on this February evening. Still, at least the latest snowfall, the first in more than a week, hid beneath it the filth of earlier accumulations, and the streets of Portland would look fresh and unsullied again, for a time.
Although the air was chill, it held no clarity. A faint mist hung over the streets, creating penumbrae around the streetlights like the halos of saints, and making a dreamscape of the skyline. It lent the city a sense of duplication, as though its ways and buildings had been overlaid imperfectly upon some earlier version of itself, and now that shadow variant was peering through, the people of the present within touching distance of those of the past.
Charlie Parker walked up Exchange Street, his head lowered against the rawness of the dark so that he progressed like a ram between sidewalk drifts. He didn’t need NBC to tell him that winter was tightening its grip. Some ancient personification of the season seemed to sense the approach of spring, even if no one else could, and was determined to cling to its white kingdom for as long as it was able. Parker could feel it in his bones, and in his wounds. His left hand was curled into a ball of hurt in his pocket, and the scars on his back felt tight and uncomfortable. His head ached, and had anyone asked, he could have pointed to the scattering of odd markings in his hair, silver-gray along the lines cut through his scalp by the shotgun pellets, and ascribed a locus of agony to each.
Older injuries troubled him too. Many years before, he had thrown himself into a frigid lake in the far north of the state rather than face the guns that would otherwise surely have ended his life. He had still taken a bullet for his troubles, although the pain of the strike was dulled by the greater shock of immersion in freezing water. He should have died, but he did not. Later, the doctors would throw an array of medical terms in his direction—hypothermia, hypotension, hypervolemia, high blood viscosity—none of which was of any great benefit to the human body, or its prospects of immortality, but all of which applied, at some point, to him.
On top of being shot, he had then violated just about every piece of post-immersion medical management by continuing to fight his tormentors, and that was before someone tried to kick his teeth in. One of the attending physicians, a specialist in maritime medicine, wanted to write a paper on him, but Parker had politely declined the offer of free ongoing treatment and therapy in exchange for his cooperation. It was a decision he sometimes regretted. He often thought that his body had never quite recovered from the trauma it had endured, because he had since felt the cold in winter with an intensity he could not recall from youth or young manhood. Sometimes, even in a warm room, he would be struck by a fit of shivering so violent that it would leave him weak for hours after. Even his teeth would hurt. Once, they chattered so hard that he lost a crown.
But hey, he was still alive, and that was good, right? He thought of the old commonplace about how giving up vices didn’t make you live longer, but just made it feel as though you were living longer. Nights like these made him feel as though he had been in pain all his life.