"This novel is chilling, lyrical and hauntingly poetic. John Connolly is brilliant and talented. And his words resonate."
A Novel View
"John Connolly is quite simply the best thing to have happened to the American thriller genre for years."
Mystery Ink Online
"The White Road can take its well-earned place with works as disparate as Shiel and Faulkner. It's a heady mix. The story itself moves fluidly and well, with the gap between supernatural horror and modern reality never so narrow."
In South Carolina, a young black man faces the death penalty for the rape and murder of Marianne Larousse, daughter of one of the wealthiest men in the state. It's a case that nobody wants to touch, a case with its roots in old evil, and old evil is private detective Charlie Parker's specialty. But Parker is about to enter a living nightmare, a red dreamscape haunted by the murderous specter of a hooded woman, by a black car waiting for a passenger that never comes, and by the complicity of both friends and enemies in the events surrounding Marianne Larousse's death. This is not an investigation. This is a descent into the abyss, a confrontation with dark forces that threaten all that Parker holds dear: his lover, his unborn child, even his soul . . . For in a prison cell far to the north, an old adversary is about to take his revenge on Charlie Parker, its instruments the very men that Parker is hunting, and a strange, hunched creature that keeps its own secrets buried by a riverbank: the undiscovered killer Cyrus Nairn. Soon, all of these figures will face a final reckoning in southern swamps and northern forests, in distant locations linked by a single thread, a place where the paths of the living and the dead converge. A place known only as the White Road.
They are coming. They are coming in their trucks and their cars, plumes of blue smoke following them through the clear night air like stains upon the soul. They are coming with their wives and their children, with their lovers and their sweethearts, talking of crops and animals and journeys they will make; of church bells and Sunday schools; of wedding dresses and the names of children yet unborn; of who said this and who said that, things small and great, the lifeblood of a thousand small towns no different from their own.
They are coming with food and drink, and the smell of fried chicken and fresh-baked pies makes their mouths water. They are coming with dirt beneath their nails and beer on their breath. They are coming in pressed shirts and patterned dresses, hair combed and hair wild. They are coming with joy in their hearts and vengeance on their minds and excitement curling like a snake in the hollow of their bellies.
They are coming to see the burning man.
The two men stopped at Cebert Yaken’s gas station, “The Friendliest Little Gas Station in the South,” close by the banks of the Ogeechee River on the road to Caina. Cebert had painted the sign himself in 1968 in bright yellows and reds, and every year since then he had climbed onto the flat roof on the first day of April to freshen the colors, so that the sun would never take its toll upon the sign and cause the welcome to fade. Each day, the sign cast its shadow on the clean lot, on the flowers in their boxes, on the shining gas pumps, and on the buckets filled with water so that drivers could wipe the remains of bugs from their windshields. Beyond lay untilled fields, and in the early September heat the shimmer rising from the road made the sassafras dance in the still air. The butterflies mixed with the falling leaves, sleepy oranges and checkered whites and eastern tailed-blues bouncing upward in the wake of passing vehicles like the sails of brightly colored ships tossing on a wild sea.
From his stool by the window, Cebert would look out on the arriving cars, checking for out-of-state tags so that he could prepare a good old Southern welcome, maybe sell some coffee and doughnuts or shift some of the tourist maps, the yellowing of their covers in the sunlight signaling the approaching end of their usefulness.
Cebert dressed the part: he wore blue overalls with his name sewn on the left breast, and a Co-Op Beef Feeds cap set way back on his head like an afterthought. His hair was white and he had a long mustache that curled exotically over his upper lip, the two ends almost meeting on his chin. Behind his back folks said that it made Cebert look like a bird had just flown up his nose, but they didn’t mean nothing by it. Cebert’s family had lived in these parts for generations and Cebert was one of their own. He advertised bake sales and picnics in the windows of his gas station and donated to every good cause that came his way. If dressing and acting like Grandpa Walton helped him sell a little gas and a couple of extra candy bars, then good luck to Cebert.
Above the wooden counter, behind which Cebert sat day in, day out, seven days each week, sharing the duties with his wife and his boy, was a bulletin board headed: “Look Who Dropped By!” Pinned to it were hundreds of business cards. There were more cards on the walls and the window frames, and on the door that led into Cebert’s little back office. Thousands of Abe B. Normals or Bob R. Averages, passing through Georgia on their way to sell more photocopy ink or hair-care products, had handed old Cebert their cards so that they could leave a reminder of their visit to the Friendliest Little Gas Station in the South. Cebert never took them down, so that card had piled upon card in a process of accretion, layering like rock. True, some had fallen over the years, or slipped behind the coolers, but for the most part if the Abe B.’s or Bob R.’s passed through again, with a little Abe or Bob in tow, there was a pretty good chance that they would find their cards buried beneath a hundred others, relics of the lives that they had once enjoyed and of the men that they had once been.
But the two men who paid for a full tank and put water in the steaming engine of their piece-of-shit Taurus just before five that afternoon weren’t the kind who left their business cards. Cebert saw that straight off, felt it as something gave in his belly when they glanced at him. They carried themselves in a way that suggested barely suppressed menace and a potential for lethality that was as definite as a cocked gun or an unsheathed blade. Cebert barely nodded at them when they entered and he sure as hell didn’t ask them for a card. These men didn’t want to be remembered, and if, like Cebert, you were smart, then you’d pretty much do your best to forget them as soon as they’d paid for their gas (in cash, of course) and the last dust from their car had settled back on the ground.