The Whisperers, By John Connolly

Horrors await a group of mercenary ex-soldiers

Mark Timlin
Saturday 22 October 2011 21:16

When a museum in Baghdad is ransacked of its treasures by looters in the aftermath of a fierce gun battle between US troops and the Fedayeen, one small, locked box goes missing. It is not much to look at, but is probably the most valuable item in the place, because its contents are horrors almost unimaginable.

Of course, like any mysterious box in fiction, eventually it must be unlocked, and when it is, thousands of miles away in America, the horrors inside are set free. Horrors that drive honourable men to commit dishonourable acts, and some to kill the things they loved the most... then themselves. Whispering horrors that strip their souls and change their natures.

Among those affected are a group of ex-soldiers who had smuggled artefacts from the war zone to sell in order to help their comrades who were damaged mentally and physically in the conflict. But those whispering voices told them to keep the money and to hell with their friends.

A little later, up in northern Maine, where those same soldiers are doing their business, private detective Charlie Parker is offered a job. An old man wants him to find out why his son killed himself; the boy was an Iraq veteran, and the third of his group to commit suicide. Parker takes the job and finds himself in more trouble than he can imagine. And he can imagine a lot of trouble.

Though John Connolly's last couple of Charlie Parker novels weren't quite up to speed, this effort is right back on the money. As much fantasy as crime fiction, The Whisperers brings back some of Parker's previous friends and enemies, as well as introducing a few new names. They include Herod, a man so riddled with cancer that his body is literally falling apart. He can hardly wait to die, but is not allowed to by a man who follows him relentlessly. Then there are Angel and Louis, staunch friends who would do anything for their buddy. They are stone killers both – and participate in a tour de force finale in a book which will surely be a bestseller this summer. It well deserves to be.

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