Once ghosts and other-worldly presences were hinted at or alluded to, but broadly remained in the shadows. And while their presence might then have been less defined they were no less menacing or scary.
Now, however, the ghosts - friendly and malign - are in the front line of stories. The Parker books are unmistakably supernatural thrillers, even if they maintain their Maine noir roots.
Other things have changed also. Parker is a more settled soul, even if no less dangerous, and is now officially working with the FBI, even if his consultancy is of the 'off the books' variety, pursuing those who stradlle the line between the living and the dead. His daughters are also beginning to play more prominent roles in the stories - both the long-dead Jennifer, who is emerging as protector of the living and a guide for the recently deceased, and her half-sister Sam, whose affinity for her father's activities is a source terror to her mother.
But some things don't change. Connolly is an inventive and exceptional tellers of tales, weaving together the stories of the living and the dead, the good and the evil and the vast majority whose lives fall somewhere between these extremes. In Parker he has a driven and complex protagonist who may have held on to life only by his finger tips but retained the strongest grip on his humanity. Parker's relentless quest - for justice, for answers? It's not always clear - drives the books forwards. He is recognised by his friends as different, by his enemies as a threat, to be respected and treated with the greatest caution.
In A Game of Ghosts, Parker is sent off by the FBI in search of one Jaycob Eklund, a Providence private investigator who has apparently disappeared off the grid while looking for the brother of a Rhode Island gangster. This is so often how it goes with Parker: even the victims come with explosive strings attached. In parallel we learn that Eklund is also of interest to a group known as 'The Brethren', a throwback to a lost community whose members hide in plain sight and protect the secrets of their ancestors. As the body count piles up, confrontation between Parker and The Brethren becomes inevitable.
It is another superb episode in a peerless series which has been given incredible depth by the author's imagination and boldness, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
For those who'd like a Connolly primer, there's a great guide at the ever excellent CrimeFictionLover site.
Reviews of previous Charlie Parker novels:
A Time of Torment 2016
A Song of Shadows 2015
The Wolf in Winter 2014
The Whisperers 2010
The Lovers 2009
The Reapers 2008