Asked by lawyer Moxie Castin to investigate who or what caused the death of a woman found buried in the woods, private detective Charlie Parker can’t say no. There’s history between Charlie and Moxie, and Charlie knows full well that the finding of a Star of David on a nearby tree at the burial site would not be the only reason Castin has such a keen interest. Yes, the deceased had evidently given birth just before she was murdered, and the local police expect to find the body of a newborn nearby.
Sixteen novels in and are we tired of hearing about the troubled Charlie Parker? No, indeed we are not. He has marvellous entertaining friends too. THE WOMAN IN THE WOODS is brilliant, and its hard to fault at all a series that bundles you so successfully through the emotional washing machine with each novel. At the end of each Parker book we have been through a hell of a ride, and we are inevitably changed. Or at least until the next Parker outing anyway; then we will possibly have even more love and grief wrenched out of us for someone we just want to see toddle happily off on a beach holiday.
This is one damaged man, but the changes wrought by Parker’s other worldly interactions are not necessarily always to his disadvantage. Connolly has a delicate task ahead in not making Charlie too much of a super hero or the immortal of private detectives. This might be why Charlie generally has the stuffing beaten out of him at least once in each novel, to keep him humble, even though the man seems quite resistant to actually dying. Charlie straddles the worlds of good and bad, alive and dead. Each encounter Charlie has with the darkness threads through his psyche and subtly alters the man into something increasingly thought of as ‘other’. We don’t want to go too far down that road.
THE WOMAN IN THE WOODS has a plot that makes you grateful you’ve read all the priors for some back story. This series has travelled so far from the first book (EVERY DEAD THING, published 2009 – yikes) that you are doing yourself a major disservice if you haven’t read all the others. It’s quite an evolution; both that of Charlie himself and of us as readers of top notch quality crime fiction. Connolly has only a handful of peers in this genre that write as such a consistently high level so even if you’re not a fan of the ‘woo-woo’, you need to read these books.
If that’s not enough gush for you, let me make simple on the recommendation. If you love this writers’ books, you will also love this one. If you haven’t read them before, you’ll still be fine with this one, but the experience will be a little golden (and easier!) if you pick up some of the key priors. THE WOMAN IN THE WOODS is a beautifully crafted work of crime fiction from one of our modern masters.
Review - OXCRIMES, Ian Rankin
For 2014, Oxfam and Profile have turned to crime in order to raise a further $350,000 for Oxfam's work.
OXCRIMES, from Profile books is a fundraising book of short crime stories with contributions from a strong group of authors - some of whom will be favourites, many of whom will be new to readers.
Said it before, will say it again, the best thing about short story collections is a chance to find "new to you" authors. In this collection the option of comparing them, up close, with more favourite writers is a bonus. Particularly as the list of contributors is so stellar, and the standard of the stories here really high.
For my money, I've had Stuart Neville on the "long list" for ages now, but have promoted him to "the ridiculously long List of Books that I have to read before I die", along with Anne Zouroudi. I've also bumped Mark Billingham, Denise Mina, Fred Vargas, Yrsa Sigurdardottir and John Harvey up on "the List" on the basis that I'm behind with their books. On the other hand, Adrian McKinty and Louise Welsh are on the top of "the List" as soon as there is a sniff of a new book (I've got a new one from McKinty here at the moment and I'm starting to develop a twitch whilst I do some "must be read" reading first). I'm also really pleased to see something from Stella Duffy - been a while.
But that's not to dismiss any of the other stories in OXCRIMES, and there's guaranteed to be something here for everyone. And it's for a good cause to boot.
With previous books ‘OxTravels’ and ‘OxTales’ having raised over a quarter of a million pounds since their 2009 publication, Oxfam are hoping ‘OxCrimes’ will raise even more, helping tackle poverty and suffering around the world. Visit Oxfam’s emergency Response pages to find out more about how you can help.