Connolly, John - 'The Wrath of Angels'
"It was the shape that marked it out, although the forest had done its best to obscure its lines. At first glance, it looked only like the trunk of a fallen tree, one much larger than those that surrounded it, but a portion of one wing protruded from the foliage, and the flashlight made parts of the fuselage glitter."
Harlan Vetters lies in his house at the edge of Maine's Great North Woods. He is old and he is dying. Lying there he remembers his days as a Forest Warden. Like the time he found the young boy, lost in the forest after his father died of a heart attack. The boy had told Harlan about a girl in black who called him to come and play with her. But the boy had paid her no attention, he knew that she was no living thing. Harlan had heard about the girl before; told the boy he had done right not to follow her. Now though, Harlan needs to tell his son and daughter about something else; about him and Paul Scollay finding the plane wreck in the Great North Woods. They had gone hunting and bodged a shot, leaving a buck wounded and running. They followed it deep into the woods, needing to put it out of its misery. They followed it so deep that the sky grew dark and it seemed that even the compass had lost its direction. The badly wounded buck stopped at the edge of a clearing, turned and ran back straight towards them. They shot the poor animal, put an end to it, then they stepped into the clearing. It was a place that smelled of vegetation and rot, a place with a dark, viscous pool. They found the wrecked plane sunk deep into the vegetation. It was empty. No bodies. One of the seats was broken, there were chains on the floor, some documents, a newspaper with an impossibly recent date on it - and a bag full of money, a lot of money. Paul and Harlan had taken the money and used it. Oh, they were discrete about it. Used the money to help friends and relatives and others in the community. But later Harlan remembered the woman journalist who had come to town asking about a plane crash. She had a man hanging around her, a devil of a man, something hinky about them. And there had been others visiting the woods, called themselves hunters, birdwatchers even, but all of them were just looking for that plane. And after he and Paul had found the wreck and taken the bag of money, that devil of a man, Brightwell as he called himself, returned. Harlan had found him in his wife's room at the nursing home, threatening and hurting, but Brightwell had run and Harlan’s wife, in a moment of clarity, whispered to Harlan: "... tell the detective. Tell Charlie Parker." And that's what Harlan's daughter and Paul Scollay's son are doing, one evening in a bar. Telling the story of the lost plane to the private investigator, Charlie Parker.
From the Brothers Grimm, to Washington Irving, Twin Peaks and The Blair Witch Project - there is always something dark at the heart of The Woods. John Connolly's Great North Woods of Maine are no exception, particularly in his eleventh Charlie Parker novel, THE WRATH OF ANGELS. Many people, including Charlie, are drawn to search the woods for the plane and there is a tense and sinister chase for a mysterious list of names; some of the searchers don't care what they do to get their clues to the crash-site. As we are led into the woods themselves the suspense and sense of horror builds; there are strange forces at work deep in the Great North Woods and some pre-date their terrifying current residents. I am new to Connolly and his character Charlie Parker and horror is not my usual reading. However I am a Twin Peaks devotee and will happily take a drop of creepy with my cup of crime coffee. Connolly writes the horror aspects of THE WRATH OF ANGELS excellently. He doesn't dwell on the graphic detail but writes enough glimpses, sights, sounds and smells to make you say, "Don't go there. Go home, turn around...." The best horrors are faceless. Connolly also writes well in describing the ordinary people effected by the evil powers and personalities at play in THE WRATH OF ANGELS. As an ambivalent horror reader this makes for a combination I can manage; humanity offsets the "un-human". Another bonus for the new reader is that, despite the length of the series, there is no overpowering need of knowing the full back story in order to make sense of Charlie and all the weird stuff going on; though back story there is. What little the reader needs to know is told - and the rest becomes evident as the story develops. THE WRATH OF ANGELS is a good book. I enjoyed it and would gladly read another John Connolly even though I might feel just a little uneasy about what's lurking in its shadows.
Lynn Harvey, England