"The White Road"
(Reviewed by Chuck Barksdale JUN 18 2003)
Although Parker works on several different, sometimes overlapping cases in this book, his main case takes him from his home and pregnant girlfriend Rachel in Scarborough, Maine to Charleston, South Carolina to help defense attorney Elliot Norton. He and Norton had previously worked together in New York City when Parker was a detective and Norton was an assistant district attorney. Norton begs Parker to defend his client, 19 year-old African-American Atys Jones. Norton hopes Parker can find the real killer of Marianne Larousse, the white daughter of Earl Larousse, Jr., and the granddaughter of Earl Larousse, a rich southern industrialist.
Parker is not a welcome visitor to Charleston as just about everyone there believes or wants to believe Atys Jones murdered Marianne Larousse. However, Charlie, with some help of his friends Louis and Angel, slowly uncovers key facts. Eventually, Charlie finds a key witness in Tereus, a former prisoner who befriended Jones while they were both in prison. Tereus holds many secrets and it is from him that Parker learns of the White Road.
"On the fifth day," he said, "after they tied me to the hitching post, I saw the White Road. The blacktop shimmered and then it was like somebody had turned the world inside out. Dark became light, black became white. And I saw the road before me, and the men working, breaking rocks, and the gunbulls spitting chewing tobacco on the dirt."
He was talking now like an Old Testament preacher, his mind filled with the vision he had seen, near crazy beneath the burning sun, his body sagging against the wood, the ropes into his skin.
"And I saw the others too. I saw figures moving between them, women and children, old and young, and men with nooses around their necks and gunshots to the body. I saw soldiers, and the night riders and women in fine, fine dresses. I saw them all, suh, the living and the dead, side by side together on the White Road. We think they gone, but they waiting. They beside us all the time, and they don't rest till justice come. That's the White Road, suh. It's the place where justice is made, where the living and the dead walk together."
Connolly also has Reverend Aaron Faulkner, an evil character apparently from an earlier book, in a key part of this book. Faulkner, imprisoned based partially on the testimony of Parker, is an evil man reminiscent of Hannibal Lector. Faulkner and evil associates hound Parker throughout the book threatening him, his family and friends. Some of these Faulkner associates follow Parker to South Carolina to further disrupt his chances at finding the real murderer of Marianne Larousse.
Connolly, an Irishman who lives part-time in Maine, obviously spent a considerable amount of time researching Southern U.S. history for this book. He uses his newly learned information to present mini history lessons throughout the book. This information, although not really critical to the story, is interesting and does provide some background to better understand the characters.
The White Road is the first book that I have read by Connolly and I had read some positive comments about him, so I was definitely interested in reading his books. Although I was finding the book dark, I really enjoyed it in the beginning and I was quickly looking into how and where I could find the previous three books. Unfortunately, my interest in the book and Connolly quickly changed as the book actually became darker and appeared to be leaning towards the supernatural with strong allusions to ghosts. I was concerned that too much of the evil in the book was going to be attributed to supernatural causes instead of living breathing humans. I'll accept the idea that ghosts of our past haunt us, especially in a book that interestingly interweaves the history of a black and white family that dates to the slave times. I'm not interested in reading a Stephen King-like resolution. (The Green Mile was almost a great movie.) Fortunately, for me anyway, I was satisfied with how this book progressed, especially with some unexpected twists at the end. I won't pay full price for a John Connolly book, but I'll pick up one of his books for a dollar or two at a used bookstore.
Since I had not read any of the previous books, I definitely felt I missed key points in the story. Although Connolly tries and does explain key parts from prior books, I was a bit confused at times as many of story lines appear to be continued from the earlier books. I would not recommend reading this book without starting with the earlier ones.
- Amazon readers rating: from 43 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from The White Road at MostlyFiction.com
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
Charlie "Bird" Parker series:
- Every Dead Thing (1999)
- The Dark Hollow (2000)
- The Killing Kind (2001)
- The White Road (2002)
- The Black Angel (2006)
- The Reapers (2008)
- The Whisperers (2010)
- The Burning Soul (2011)
- The Wrath of Angels (January 2012)
- Bad Men (2003)
- The Book of Lost Things (2006)
- The Unquiet (2007)
- The Gates (2009)
- The Lovers (2009)
- The Infernals (October 2011)
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- Official website for John Connolly
- The Tangled Web page on John Connolly and his books
- January Magazine review of Every Dead Thing
- Crime Time review of Dark Hollow
- MostlyFiction.com review of Bad Men
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About the Author:
John 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.