"An intelligent, plausible thriller, both harrowing and memorable."
"A cracking good tale that seamlessly blends suspense, mystery and just the lightest touch of his signature supernatural ambience."
The Independent [IE]
"Charlie is not only a sharp investigator and a likable guy; he's also an engaging narrator with a compelling voice. Another strong entry in this always exciting series."
The Burning Soul
Parker hunts a missing girl whose disappearance is linked to a long-kept secret.
Randall Haight has a secret: when he was a teenager, he and his friend killed a 14-year-old girl. Randall did his time and built a new life in the small Maine town of Pastor's Bay, but somebody has discovered the truth about Randall. He is being tormented by anonymous messages, haunting reminders of his past crime, and he wants private detective Charlie Parker to make it stop. But another 14-year-old girl has gone missing, this time from Pastor's Bay, and the missing girl's family has its own secrets to protect. Now Parker must unravel a web of deceit involving the police, the FBI, a doomed mobster named Tommy Morris, and Randall Haight himself. Because Randall Haight is telling lies . . .
Gray sea, gray sky, but fire in the woods and the trees aflame. No heat, no smoke, but
still the forests burned, crowning with red and yellow and orange; a cold conflagration
with the coming of fall, and the leaves resignedly descending. There was mortality in
the air, borne on the first hint of winter breezes, the threatening chill of them, and the
animals prepared for the coming snows. The foraging had begun, the filling of bellies
for leaner times. Hunger would make the more vulnerable creatures take risks in order
to feed, and the predators would be waiting. Black spiders squatted at the corners of
their webs, not yet slumbering. There were still stray insects to be had, and further
trophies to be added to their collections of withered husks. Winter coats grew thick,
and fur began to lighten, the better to blend in against the snow. Contrails of geese
arrowed the skies like refugees fleeing a coming conflict, abandoning those forced to
stay and face what was to come.
The ravens were motionless. Many of their far-northern brethren had headed
south to escape the worst of the winter, but not these birds. They were huge yet sleek,
their eyes bright with an alien intelligence. Some on this remote road had noticed
them already, and if they had company on their walks, or in their automobiles, the
commented on the presence of the birds. Yes, it was agreed, they were larger than the
usual ravens, and perhaps, too, they brought with them a sense of discomfort, these
hunched beings, these patient, treacherous scouts. They were perched deep among the
branches of an ancient oak, an organism approaching the end of its days, its leaves
falling earlier each year, so that by the end of every September it was already bare, a
charred thing amid the flames, as though the all-consuming fire had already had its
way with it, leaving behind only the smoke smudges of long-abandoned nests. The
tree stood at the edge of a small copse that jutted slightly at this place to follow the
curvature of the road, with the oak as its farthest point. Once there were others like it,
but the men who built the road had cut them down many years before. It was now
alone of its kind, and soon it too would be gone.
But the ravens had come to it, for the ravens liked dying things.
The smaller birds fled their company, and regarded the intruders warily from
the cover of evergreen foliage. They had silenced the woods behind them. They
radiated threat: the stillness of them, their claws curled upon the branches, the
bladelike sharpness of their beaks. They were stalkers, watchers, waiting for the hunt
to begin. The ravens were so statuesque, so immobile, that they might have been
mistaken for misshapen outcroppings of the tree itself, tumorous growths upon its
bark. It was unusual to see so many together, for ravens are not social birds; a pair,
yes, but not six, not like this, not without food in sight.
Walk on, walk on. Leave them behind, but not before casting one last anxious
glance at them, for to see them was to be reminded of what it is to be pursued, to be
tracked from above while the hunters follow remorselessly. That is what ravens do;
they lead the wolves to their prey, and take a portion of the spoils as payment for their
labors. You want them to move. You want them to leave. Even the common raven
was somehow disturbing, but these were not common ravens. No, these were most
uncommon birds. Darkness was approaching, and still they waited. They might almost
have been slumbering were it not for the way the fading light caught the blackness of
their eyes, and how they captured the early moon when the clouds broke, imprisoning
its image within themselves.