John Connolly

"Bad Men"

(Reviewed by Sebastian Fernandez JUL 24, 2004)

"The huge policeman shivered. He kicked at the glass with the toe of his boot and stared into the darkness of the forest as Richie Claeson's words returned to him.

The others, in the woods.

The island had been quiet for so very long.

Now, something was awake."

John Connolly delivers an impressive thriller, which I found almost impossible to put down after jumping into its exquisitely elaborated plot. The story evolves around a place called Dutch Island, situated at a one and a half hour ferry ride from Portland, Maine. This island has been the setting of mysterious and unsettling events throughout its history. One of these oddities occurred when four men kidnapped and raped a woman more than two centuries ago after taking her to the island; three of the vandals disappeared without leaving any trace and one was found dead at the site in an uncommon scenario.

In the late seventeenth century Indians consistently raided the various islands in the area outside of what is known today as Portland, pushing the white settlers away. But in 1691 thirty individuals arrived at Dutch Island, which at the time was also known as Sanctuary, and decided to give it a try. Bauer, one of the men that formed part of the group, was justly accused of attempting to rape another man's wife. When he asked his own wife for shelter against his pursuers she did not comply and he was captured. However, he was able to escape and he returned years later with renegade Indians as his "hired help" bringing mayhem to the village. After the horrible events that developed on the island, the ghosts of the dead were left behind to cohabitate with the living. Usually, they do not interact much with humans, but now something is growing, and some people on the island can feel it.

Connolly navigates between the past and present with outstanding skill, presenting several stories that seem unconnected at first, but are important pieces to a craftily created puzzle. On the island, unsettling events are developing, starting with a strange accident in which Sylvie Lauter and her boyfriend die in the car they stole to take a joyride; but before dying Sylvie receives a very peculiar visit. Meanwhile, miles away to the south, Harry is traveling to an insurance convention with his mistress looking forward to have a fun time. When they lose their way they run into a willing young man who may not be what he seems.

I have not yet had the pleasure of reading any of the author's books in the Charlie "Bird" Parker series that starts with Every Dead Thing. But I am aware of Connolly's ability for creating interesting and well-developed characters. In this case he hits the mark again. Joe Dupree is literally a giant, at seven feet two inches and three hundred and sixty pounds, and he is in charge of the police department on Dutch Island. He is courting Marianne, a woman who has a big skeleton in her closet and is trying to keep her son safe and happy in their new heaven. Joe also has a few secrets of his own, and is one of the true locals since his family was part of the original group of settlers that came to the place.

Another enthralling character is Moloch, who is sitting in jail awaiting his forced appearance before the Grand Jury, and knowing that when that happens he will be facing charges that deserve the capital punishment. When he sleeps, he has disturbing dreams, in which he leads a gang of renegade Indians onto an island in search of his wife who had betrayed him. He is a realist and a practical guy, so he knows the odds of surviving his encounter with the legal system are slim. That is why he has his associates working on alternative solutions. Finally, there are a couple of other characters that add flavor to the mix: Jack, a painter with little talent, but whose paintings evolve after he is done with them, and Richie, a twenty-five-year-old "kid" who has the ability to see unnatural events unfold.

It is reinvigorating to find authors that besides creating exciting stories that keep you reading all night, possess the gift of writing. This is the case of John Connolly, who not only leads us towards the end of the story with a fast-paced plot full of suspense, but who also knows how to make us enjoy the ride to get there.
  • Amazon readers rating: from 47 reviews


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About the Author:

John ConnollyJohn Connolly was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1968. He has worked as a journalist, a barman, a local government official, a waiter and a dogsbody at Harrod's. He studied English at Trinity College, Dublin and journalism at Dublin City University. He worked for the The Irish Times as a freelance journlist for five years and is still a regular contributor.

John divides his time between his native Dublin and the United States. About Us | Subscribe | Review Team | History | ©1998-2014