‘The Reapers’ by John Connolly

That unusual couple, the Hispanic thief Angel and the African American hitman Louis, have provided moral support and physical backup to private investigator Charlie Parker over the course of six novels and one novella. At last, they come into their own as the main characters in this complex thriller. Parker shows up at the last moment, this time to provide support to them, but by the time he enters the scene, they have already solved the mystery of who is gunning for Louis. Hired to take out an unsavory character and his son, Louis discovers that in actuality he has been set up. The last third of the novel resembles nothing so much as a very complex elaboration of a 1924 short story by Richard Connell: “The Most Dangerous Game.” Before the hunt for human trophies begins, and even during it, the reader is given multiple flashbacks to show why the impassive, coldly calculating Louis and, to some extent, the compassionate, sensitive Angel were lured into the killer’s hunting preserve. Such is the tension the omniscient narrative induces in the reader that I honestly had no idea whether the two men would survive or not.

The novel is skillfully written, rich in characterization. It covers a wide variety of bonds that men can establish with each other. At one extreme is the relationship between a pair of omnisexual psychopaths who share everything except their own bodies. At another is a moving love story between Willie Brew and Arno, mechanics who work together, who have never had a physical relationship and would be horrified at the thought, and yet who act like a couple in their day-by-day relationship. Above all, for the first time we come to understand how Angel and Louis function as a couple, what brought them and keeps them together, what each provides to the relationship. We have always understood Angel’s loyalty to the sometimes crazily possessed Parker, for he protected Angel while Angel was in prison. Here we are finally given insight into Louis’s attraction to the detective: “what Louis and Parker had in common more than anything else, Angel believed, was a kind of darkness.” The reader turns the pages wondering if this darkness will now kill them both. At the same time, the darkness is interspersed with a remarkable sense of comedy: Angel and Arno each provide moments to laugh aloud, their humor being both witty and perversely unexpected. It’s the first Connolly that I enjoyed from beginning to end.

by John Connolly
Atria Books
ISBN 9781416569527
Hardcover, $26.00, 352 pp.