“Connolly again displays his mastery at combining the hardboiled with the supernatural.”
“It doesn't get any better than this.”
“The beauty of John Connolly's Charlie Parker novels is how the characters continue to evolve.”
The Jacksonville Times
A Time of Torment
Parker confronts his own inner demons as he faces a dangerous group known as "The Brethren."
Jerome Burnel was once a hero. He took action to save lives, never imagining how that might put his own at risk. Unknown forces humiliated him and stripped him of everything, sending him to prison for a crime he didn't commit. He believes it's only a matter of time before these forces kill him — but before he dies, he wants answers. Burnel turns to Charlie Parker: who are the people who ruined his life? What happened to the young woman he saved? And what is the secret concealed in a small town in West Virginia, where an ancient power rests? Charlie Parker, reborn from death, is finding new ways to do battle with old evil. He and his longtime allies, Louis and Angel, descend on a strange, isolated community called The Cut, whose leaders serve only the Dead King.
They’re circling now, then falling, descending in a slow gyre, dropping so gently that their approach can barely be discerned. They are hawks in the form of men, and the one who leads them is doubly transformed: lost and found, human and bird; youngest of them, yet strangely old. He has endured, and in this endurance he has been forged anew. He has seen a world beyond this one. He has glimpsed the face of a new god.
He is at peace with himself, and so he will wage war.
Faster they come, the spiral narrowing, the three almost as one, their coats mantling in the chill fall air; and not a whisper of their approach, not a passing shadow nor a sparrow startled, only the stillness of a world waiting to be shattered, and the perfect balance of a life, perhaps, to be saved and a life, perhaps, to be ended.
The clouds part, pierced by a shaft of light that catches them in flight, as though they have attracted, however briefly, the attention of a deity long slumbering but now awake, roused by martial clamor and the raising of armies in the name of the Captain, the One Who Waits Behind the Glass, the God of Wasps.
And the old deity will set His child against them, and the hawks will follow.
It was a long time since the Gray Man had considered the possibility of being caught, for the Gray Man did not truly exist. He had no physical form. He dwelt alongside another, sharing the same skin, and only at the final breath might there have been a glimpse of the essence of his true nature, although even then he preferred to remain unseen, concealed by darkness. He was not above causing pain, although this was as much a matter of whim as any particular tastes that he might have possessed. A death was only the beginning, which was why he had survived undetected for so long. He could make a kill lasts for years. Physical pain was finite, for ultimately the body would surrender the soul, but emotional agony was capable of infinite variations, and the subtlest of modifications might release from the wound a new torrent of distress.
In the persona that he presented to the world, the Gray Man was a reverse chameleon. His name was Roger Ormsby, and he was small, colorful, and greatly liked. He was in his early sixties, with an impish humor. His hair and beard were white, but neatly trimmed. He proudly carried before him his little potbelly, like a happily expectant mother demonstrating the pleasure she takes in her burden. He favored red suspenders and vests of unusual design. He wore tweed in winter and linen in summer, preferring creams and tans but offsetting them with tastefully bright ties and handkerchiefs. He could play the piano, and waltz and two-step with ease, but inside Ormsby was a foul thing animating him as a puppeteer works a marionette, and only an expert might have detected the sterility of his renditions of beloved classics as his fingers moved across the keys, or the joyless precision of every move he made on a dance floor.
Ormsby did not discuss politics or religion. He took only frivolous subjects seriously, and as a consequence was much valued as a dinner guest. He was a happy widower, faithful to the memory of his departed wife to the extent that he would do no more than flirt with the less lonely widows of Champaign, Illinois, but not so in love with the ghost of his departed spouse as to allow the loss of her to cloud his spirit or the spirits of others. He was always in demand as a companion for theater, movies, and the occasional light opera, and the absence of a sexual component to his relationships meant that he moved in and out of social situations with ease. He was a Friend of the Library, a member of the Audubon Society, a regular fixture at lectures on local history, and a generous—but not overgenerous—donor to good causes. True, there were some who disliked him, for no man can be loved by all, but in general such naysayers were regarded by the majority as willfully ornery, unable to accept that someone might simply be a force for contentment in the world.
And so Roger Ormsby bobbed through life in his vibrant plumage, advertising his presence, hiding nothing, but when he closed his front door behind him the artificial light in his eyes was suffocated, and the face of the Gray Man was pendent like a dead moon in the blackness of his pupils.