‘Issues’ thriller looks at returning soldiers

  • Fri Sep 17th, 2010 12:30pm
  • Life

By Oline H. Cogdill McClatchy-Tribune News Service

”The Whisperers,” by John Connolly, $26

The effect of war’s aftermath on soldiers as they try to readjust to civilian life has become a recurring theme in crime fiction during the past decade.

In “The Whisperers,” John Connolly uses his series about the volatile private detective Charlie Parker to show a different side of the stress and fears that soldiers cope with returning from Iraq.

Connolly has expertly straddled the mystery and the horror genres in his series, paying homage to both but never allowing the supernatural to overpower his realistic story.

Now, without taking sides about the politics or the ethics of the war in Iraq, Connolly delivers a thoughtful, measured tale that is empathetic to the returning soldiers without preaching.

His ninth novel illustrates how an “issues” thriller should never lose sight of being a thriller first with the issues woven into the fabric of the story.

Parker is hired by Bennett Patchett to find out why his son, Damien, committed suicide a few weeks after coming home to Maine.

Unlike some of his fellow soldiers, Damien had returned “just fine.” The young man had “a good war;” he didn’t feel guilt over fighting, wasn’t haunted by the deaths of some of his friends and was thinking of re-enlisting.

Parker’s investigation uncovers the suicides of other recently returned members of Damien’s unit, and a smuggling ring dealing in ancient Iraqi artifacts being moved between Maine and Canada.

The stolen treasures or at least one in particular may have supernatural powers that can drive a thief crazy. That’s something that Parker, who has visions of his deceased wife and daughter, can understand better than anyone.

Connolly’s intensely dark vision adds a rich foundation to “The Whisperers.” Parker continues to battle villains much worse than the demons that haunt him. Parker and his associates, Louis and Angel, gay hit men who are partners in life and work, continue to be up for the challenge whether evil comes from the greed of men or from centuries-old spirits.