Book talk: The Dirty South


Jeff Popple reviews the latest excellent novel by John Connolly, The Dirty South. More of Jeff’s reviews can be found on his blog:

the dirty south book cover

After several delays due to COVID-19, John Connolly’s The Dirty South is finally being released. Set back in 1997, it is a prequel to Connolly’s highly successful series about private eye Charlie Parker and, unlike the other books in the series, it does not feature any supernatural overtones.

The Dirty South opens with the traumatised former New York police detective in a small, rundown town in Arkansas hunting down a lead on the killer who recently brutally murdered his wife and child. Someone has been slaughtering young black women in Burdon County, although no one wants to admit that it is happening, and Parker thinks that there might be a link to the slaying of his family. He quickly realises that there is no connection and, after a night in jail, he is happy to leave the town, until he is persuaded by the desperate local sheriff to stay and help with the investigation there. A decision which will have violent repercussions for a lot of people.

This is a big, beautifully written novel that keenly held my attention from the beginning to the surprising conclusion. Connolly’s mastery of language is only matched by a handful of other crime writers and he can vividly capture a scene and describe a setting with a few telling phases. As always, the breadth and intricacy of his plotting is superb, and the book moves through several good twists and turns before arriving at the suspenseful climax.

The characterisations are rich and fulsome and there is a rich tapestry of ideas and detail in The Dirty South. None of these elements, however, slow the book’s pace or stop it from being a very exciting read.

Along with Michael Robotham’s When She Was Good, this is one of my favourite reads of 2020. Its release may have been very delayed, but the wait has been worth it. Highly recommended.

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