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The Dirty South

Review

The Dirty South

Lately I have encountered people who are returning to the literary horror genre. Horror went out of fashion as the result of the discriminating taste of a buyer for a major bookstore chain, and it caused somewhat of a downward spiral in popularity. Happily it’s coming back now, and readers are looking for new books. I always refer them to John Connolly’s Charlie Parker novels, which are a blend of mystery, thriller and supernatural horror.

Parker is a former NYPD detective who became an obsessive private investigator following the murders of his wife and daughter in EVERY DEAD THING, which kicked off the series. His hunt for the killer has led him down a number of horrific paths through 17 novels, even as he has sustained physical and psychological damage along the way. The long story arc was resolved to some extent in A BOOK OF BONES. In his newly published book, Connolly has chosen to hit the pause button on Parker’s life and future quests with a story from his past. It is a dark and wondrous tale.

"THE DIRTY SOUTH is an indispensable addition to the Parker canon for Connolly’s longtime readers and a terrific introduction for those who have yet to discover his dark prose magic."

THE DIRTY SOUTH takes place in 1997 shortly after the events in EVERY DEAD THING. Our first real sighting of Parker finds him sitting in a jail cell in a small town in Arkansas. His quest for justice for his murdered family has taken him there and coincidentally results in his undertaking of his first case as a private investigator, which ultimately involves the separate murders of three Black girls. Absolutely everything about the official investigations into the killings is wrong, but, due to jurisdictional manipulations, it seems like there is little that can be done. However, Parker begins kicking sand into the gears, much to the objection of many (though not all) who are in the area.

Connolly, who is a native of Ireland, demonstrates an almost uncanny feel for the grit and grime of small-town politicking in this country. Parker’s investigation takes him into some very unexpected places as he attempts to speak for the victims in their involuntary final moments while following the trail of those responsible for his own sorrow and pain. While he does achieve one goal, he finds that he is only taking the first few and tentative steps toward the other.

THE DIRTY SOUTH is an indispensable addition to the Parker canon for Connolly’s longtime readers and a terrific introduction for those who have yet to discover his dark prose magic. Over the course of two-plus decades, Connolly has been constructing a frightening multilayered mythos that is all too believable. This 18th entry in the series fills a hole that fans did not even know existed.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on November 6, 2020

The Dirty South
by John Connolly

  • Publication Date: November 3, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
  • ISBN-10: 1982127546
  • ISBN-13: 9781982127541