“A scary, cerebral thriller . . . Connolly is a master of suggestion, creating mood and suspense with ease”
“Hard to put down, harder to forget.”
“Connolly's dark, lyrical prose will leave unshakable images lurking on the edge of the reader's consciousness.”
Parker uncovers the terrible secrets of his client's father, a child psychiatrist.
Daniel Clay, a once-respected psychiatrist, has been missing for years following revelations about harm done to the children in his care. Believing him dead, his daughter Rebecca has tried to come to terms with her father's legacy, but her fragile peace is about to be shattered. Someone is asking questions about Daniel Clay, someone who refuses to believe that he is dead: the revenger Merrick, a father and a killer obsessed with discovering the truth about his own daughter's disappearance. Private detective Charlie Parker is hired to make Merrick go away, but Merrick will not be stopped. Soon Parker finds himself trapped between those who want the truth about Daniel Clay to be revealed, and those who want it to remain hidden at all costs. But there are other forces at work. Someone is funding Merrick's hunt, a ghost from Parker's past. And Merrick's actions have drawn others from the shadows, half-glimpsed figures intent upon their own form of revenge, pale wraiths drifting through the ranks of the unquiet dead. The Hollow Men have come . . .
This world is full of broken things: broken hearts, broken promises, broken people. This world, too, is a fragile construct, a honeycomb place where the past leaches into the present, where the weight of blood guilt and old sins causes lives to collapse and forces children to lie with the remnants of their fathers in the tangled ruins of the aftermath.
I am broken, and I have broken in return. Now I wonder how much hurt can be visited upon others before the universe takes action, before some outside force decides that enough has been endured. I once thought that it was a question of balance, but I no longer believe that. I think that what I have done was out of all proportion to what was done to me, but that is the nature of revenge. It escalates. It cannot be controlled. One hurt invites another, on and on until the original injury is all but forgotten in the chaos of what follows.
I was a revenger once. I will be one no more.
But this world is full of broken things.
Old Orchard Beach, Maine, 1986
The Guesser removed the fold of bills from his pocket, licked his thumb, and discreetly counted the day’s takings. The sun was setting, shedding itself in shards of burning red like blood and fire on the water. There were still people moving along the boardwalk, sipping sodas and eating hot buttered popcorn, while distant figures strolled along the beach, some hand in hand with another and some alone. The weather had altered in recent days, the evening temperature dropping noticeably and a sharp wind, a herald of greater change to come, toying with the grains of sand as dusk descended, and the visitors no longer lingered as they once did. The Guesser felt his time there drawing to a close, for if they would not pause, then he could not work, and if he could not work, then he was no longer the Guesser. He would be just a small man standing before a rickety assemblage of signs and scales, trinkets and baubles. Without an audience to witness their display, his skills might as well not exist. The tourists had begun to thin, and soon this place would hold no appeal for the Guesser and his fellows: the hucksters, the nickel-a-ride merchants, the carnies, and the flimflam men. They would be forced to depart for more rewarding climes, or hole up for the winter to live on the summer’s earnings.
The Guesser could taste the sea and the sand upon his skin, salty and life-affirming. He never failed to notice it, even after all these years. The sea gave him his living, in its way, for it drew the crowds to it, and the Guesser was waiting for them when they came, but his affinity for it ran deeper than the money that it brought him. No, he recognized something of his own essence in it, in the taste of his sweat that was an echo of his own distant origins and the origin of all things, for he believed that a man who did not understand the lure of the sea was a man who was lost to himself.
His thumb flipped expertly through the bills, his lips moving slightly as he ran the count in his head. When he was done, he added the sum to his running total, then compared it with his earnings from the same time last year. He was down, just as last year had been down from the year before, and that year less than its predecessor in turn. People were more cynical now, and they and their children were less inclined to stand before a strange little man and his primitive-looking sideshow. He had to work ever harder to earn even less, although not so little that he was about to consider giving up his chosen profession. After all, what else would he do? Clear tables at a buffet, maybe? Work behind the counter at Mickey D’s like some of the more desperate retirees that he knew, reduced to cleaning up after mewling infants and careless teenagers? No, that wasn’t for the Guesser. He had been following this path for the best part of forty years, and the way he felt he figured he was good for a few more yet, assuming he was spared by the great dealer in the sky. His mind was still sharp, and his eyes, behind the black-framed lenses, were still capable to taking in all that he needed to know about his marks in order to continue to make his modest living. Some might term what he had a gift, but he did not call it that. It was a skill, a craft, honed and developed year upon year, a vestige of a sense that was strong in our ancestors but had now been dulled by the comforts of the modern world. What he had was elemental, like the tides and currents of the ocean.