The Dirty South (Charlie Parker #18) by John Connolly

‘The past shadows us. The past defines us. In the end, the past claims us all.’

Arkansas, 1997. Charlie Parker, former NYPD detective, grieving widower and father, has travelled to Burdon County in search of the killer of his wife and daughter. Young black women have been murdered in Burdon County and Parker is looking for a link. He asks questions about murders, murders that everyone seems to be trying to ignore or deny and finds himself arrested.

After a night in jail, convinced there is no connection between these murders and that of his family, Parker is happy to leave. But on his way out of town, he changes his mind. The local sheriff, keen to find out the truth and desperate for help, involves Parker in the investigation.

From beginning to end, this novel held my attention. I could imagine the setting: a dirt-poor county desperate for investment, with the relevant power-brokers happy to do whatever it takes to secure that investment. Clearly, in this setting, some people matter more than others, the lives and deaths of others are ignored. There are plenty of people with something to hide, including those involved in the drug manufacture and sales. Some public officials are corrupt, others are incompetent while others are doing the best they can.

The investigations lead into dangerous territory, with plenty of suspense and more than a few twists before the end. I enjoyed this novel with its rich characterisations and well described scenes. While the Charlie Parker series is on my reading list, this is the first of the books I have read. I think this could be a happy coincidence, given that this novel is a prequel.

‘Where this case is concerned, Mr Parker, you’re deep in the Dirty South.’

Jennifer Cameron-Smith