Monday, September 7, 2009

Review of The Reapers by John Connolly, Hodder and Stoughton (2008)

Louis used to be a Reaper – an elite assassin – until he started to question who he was killing and why. His father-like handler, Gabriel, had let him walk away to start a new life with his partner, Angel. Now someone seems intent on seeking revenge for a life Louis cut short, Gabriel is back on the scene, and another former Reaper – Louie’s arch-nemesis, Bliss – has seemingly resurfaced. One of Louis’s businesses is attacked, then his apartment. A reclusive, wealthy business seems to know who the perpetrator is, a long time rival that he would also like neutralised. He points the path to a remote farmstead in upstate New York and when Gabriel is shot, Louis decides to follow the path to bring the situation to a resolution thus heading into the trap.

It had been some years since Louis and the man named Gabriel had met, but two men whose lives had once been so closely linked could never truly sever the bond between them. In a sense, it was Gabriel who had brought Louis into being, who had taken a boy with undeniable talents and forged him into a man who could be wielded as a weapon. It was to Gabriel that those who needed to avail themselves of Louis’s services had once come. He was the point of contact, the filter. His precise status was nebulous. He was a fixer, a facilitator. There was no blood on his hands, or none that one could see. Louis trusted him, to a degree. There was too much about Gabriel that was unknown, and unknowable. Still, Louis was conscious of something that resembled affection for his old master.

John Connolly’s writing flows along like a lyrical river; his narrative structure is excellent, tugging the reader from one sentence to the next. That said, whilst I like Connolly’s books - and this was no exception - The Reapers wasn’t in the same league as some of the other books in the series. The problem for me is that book is effectively the back story to Louis and Angel, the friends of his regular main character Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker – the former police detective who mourns the savage death of his wife and daughter and is inexorably drawn to trouble. The result is an in-depth explanation of Louis’s past in particular, to the extent that precious little happens for large chunks of the book. The description above is the entire plot – practically nothing happens. In the first 170 odd pages the only action is the attack on Louis’s garage business and his apartment and they only take up a few pages. Back story and in-depth characterization is fine, but as a reader I wanted story. When the action did arrive at the remote farmstead it was fairly predictable and lacked the kind of twists and turns that I normally associate with Connolly’s work. What saved this book was the quality of Connolly’s writing and the story within the story of Louis’s recruitment as a reaper, which was superb.


Dorte H said...

This one sounds as if it has some of the same weaknesses as the Susan Hill I reviewed yesterday: good language & characters, no proper plot/solution to the crime.

Uriah Robinson said...

I have found this with some long running series.
The author forgets it was the plots "wot got them there" and starts to "go literary" and concentrate on solely on characters and stylistic writing.

Rob Kitchin said...

Dorte, the plot was there, there just wasn't enough for me. The solution was okay, I was just expecting the duel with Bliss to be a bit more complex. Uriah, I think Connolly has always been a stylistic writer, and I don't think he went all literary, I just think he got overly absorbed in Louis' back story and didn't spend enough time on the plot/action. The bits of the book focusing on Louis' recruitment is, I think, a first rate bit of writing. The rest was the problem for me.