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Posted by on 1 May, 2024 in Bestseller, British Crime, British Thrillers, Crime, serial killer thriller | 0 comments



Coming into May 2024 my reading has been on the dark side with two new novels by John Connolly and Helen Fields.

The Instruments Of Darkness by John Connolly (Hachette, 30 April 2024)

It has been awhile since we have had a full Charlie Parker novel by John Connolly. The last entry was the 2022 novellas (The Furies) and before that Charlie only had a small role in the terrific The Nameless Ones (2021). Now thankfully he is back and in very form in The Instruments Of Darkness, (Hachette, 30 April 2024).

In Maine, Colleen Clark stands accused of the worst crime a mother can commit: the abduction and possible murder of her child. There is little initial evidence, apart from a bloody blanket seemingly hidden in her car. Everyone, ambitious politicians in an election season, hardened police and concerned ordinary folk, has an opinion on the case, and most believe she is guilty.

But most is not all. Defending Colleen is the lawyer Moxie Castin, and working alongside him is the private investigator Charlie Parker, who senses the tale has another twist, one involving a husband too eager to accept his wife’s guilt and a disgraced psychic seeking redemption. While in the background a group of right wing militants are going about their nefarious activities, with unexpected consequences. Also in typical spooky Connolly fashion, there is a creepy, old twisted house deep in the Maine woods, and whatever dwells beneath it.

This is another absorbing and evocative tale by Connolly that smoothly draws the reader in and keeps them interested. The initial set-up is quickly established and Parker wastes no time in making his presence felt. The pacing is a little leisurely, as Connolly takes his time expanding the story arcs and establishing the political environment, but the quality of the writing and the unexpected directions of the plot keep you engaged. As usual, Connolly brings a poet eye to his writing and there are some truly evocative images:

“a cigarette was burning in an ashtray, its column of ash growing longer and longer like a gray worm being birthed” 

The characterisations are very strong, with some of the minor characters, especially the ageing mobster who yearns for Parker’s approval, Mattia Reggio, stealing the limelight. It is also nice to catch up with members of the regular cast, especially the Fulci brothers who provide some good moments of levity, and the deadly Angel and Louis.

Typical for a Connolly novel, there is a rich tapestry of ideas and detail. Racism, stereotyping, misogyny, greed and the cloud of political influence are all tackled by Connolly in a telling way, but without overly slowing the pace or lessening the excitement. He also hits the target in his portrayal of local, and national, politics:

“Leo was also an object lesson for those who didn’t actively resist the encroachments of the far right. When the dust cleared, the local gauleiter would be someone like Leo: a petty tyrant, an abuser of men and women, and therefore the last person to whom authority should ever be conceded.”

The suspense and tension steadily mount throughout the book, and the ending explodes in violence in a very exciting way. There is also a neat sting in the tail. I know that some crime readers are uncomfortable with the supernatural elements of Connolly’s novels, but to me they are quite muted here, and the detecting and action are mainly earthly bound. In all, another thoroughly enjoyable book by Connolly.

The Instruments Of Darkness was released in Australia on 30 April 2024 and will be released in the United Kingdom and the United States on 7 May 2024.

Thanks to the publishers and the Canberra Weekly for an advanced copy of the book for review.

Profile K by Helen Fields (Avon, 25 April 2024)

Also very dark in tone is the latest serial killer thriller by British author Helen Fields, Profile K (Avon, 25 April 2024).

Helen has garnered considerable popular acclaim for her series about Edinburgh detectives DI Luc Callenach and DCI Ava Turner, but with Profile K she heads off in a fresh direction, with a new central character.

Midnight Jones is an analyst trained to understand the human mind. She works for a London biotech company creating profiles based on applications received by various companies and educational institutes. One day the application she’s reviewing comes up as Profile K, K for Killer, which she’s never come across before. To confirm the results, she takes the same test herself and is soon convinced of the applicant’s potential threat. She raises her concerns with her employer, but is told to drop it and is reminded of her privacy obligations. Nevertheless she persists with her efforts and finds herself in pursuit of a serial killer.

This is a clever, scary novel that provides an interesting twist on the standard serial killer thriller. The book starts with a shocking killing, and the pace rarely lets up, as Midnight pursues her target. The background information is interesting, and Midnight is an engaging central character who is nicely fleshed out. Her relationship with her disabled sister is touching, and for the most part she goes about her investigations in a credible and logical manner. Readers of Helen’s earlier books will also appreciate the appearance of the marvelously named Doctor Connie Woolwine from The Shadow Man and The Institution.

Regular readers will also not be surprised by the book’s gruesomeness, and there is plenty of violence and detailed descriptions of death and injury. The chapters from the perspective of ‘The Applicant’ are particularly confronting, and this is certainly not a book for the squeamish.

Overall, a good piece of entertainment for fans of dark serial killer thrillers.

Profile K was released in most places 25 April 2024, although it is only currently readily available in Australia on Kindle. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a copy of the book for review.

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