In some ways, Charlie Parker is the stereotypical detective. He is troubled by problems with both booze and relationships. He is a driven, relentless man who will not be derailed from his pursuit of justice (or often, simple revenge) and is prepared to operate outside both the law and society's "normal" ethical boundaries to achieve his aims.
What separates Parker from the vast and growing herd of detectives is the haunting. Charlie Parker is haunted both psychologically and physically, the former by a tragic and violent past in which he has lost his father and then a wife and daughter in unbearable circumstances. The latter pair have been a continuous presence in the series; Parker, and others, see and hear them.
And the paranormal - supernatural? - presence is not restricted to relatives. In previous novels, all sorts of dark angels, demons and spectres have wreaked havoc in the great state of Maine, where Parker lives and works, and further afield. It colours all Connolly's work with a dark and misty tinge, and in all the novels, not once have I found it unrealistic or jarring. Rather the blurring of the boundaries between the living and the dead, the material and the spectral, is convincing, compelling and even somewhat appealing. It can also be frightening. More than once I have put a Connolly novel down but been unable to leave the story so decisively. They play on the mind and the nerves.
One of the questions left unanswered by the Parker series, which now runs to 10 books, is why Charlie Parker has been marked out as a man who walks that blurred line, serving both living and dead, attracting the attention of both. The Lovers begins to answer those questions.
With his PI license suspended following an altercation with the law, Charlie Parker is filling the time by managing a busy Maine bar and investigating the circumstances of his father's death. Parker's father was a popular, honest and hard-working NYPD foot patrolman who inexplicably shattered five lives when he murdered a young couple in the City before taking his own life. In the aftermath, his widow and son moved back to her family in Maine, where the young Charlie rebuilt his life.
Decades later, Charlie Parker wants to know what drove his father to such an unexpected course of action and begins to peel away the layers of secrecy and cover-up that have hardened over his father's memory. As he does so a string of unexplained and seemingly murders take place across the United States, converging on both Maine and Parker's own investigation.
The Lovers is classic Connolly. It is an entertaining thriller with a Gothic heart that will make your heart beat just that little bit faster and the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. For long-term Connolly fans the journey into Charlie Parker's past will make it essential and compelling reading. To my mind it is the best book in an exceptional series.