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The Woman in the Woods


The Woman in the Woods

I recently reread EVERY DEAD THING, which introduced John Connolly and his haunted, damaged protagonist, Charlie Parker. That worthy book gives little hint of the mythos that Connolly has incrementally created over the course of almost 20 years and 16 novels, with the publication of the newly minted THE WOMAN IN THE WOODS. If you have never experienced his genius --- and there is really no other word that adequately describes it --- or even if you have, you should start at the beginning of the series and read each installment in sequence, one after the other and to the exclusion of all else, simply to watch Connolly’s universe unfold. At the same time, one can pick up the book without prior knowledge of what has gone before. It is an excellent place to begin, even as it exceeds the already stratospheric bar set by its predecessors.

"I'm not going to call THE WOMAN IN THE WOODS Connolly’s masterpiece, but it's wondrous enough to be indistinguishable from whatever might be."

So what do we get in THE WOMAN IN THE WOODS? Among other things, there is a mystery, a haunting and grisly one, a Russian nesting doll of a mystery that moves backward and forward in time and nudges our world --- the one in which we go about our business wearing blinders more often than not --- with the one we sometimes see but choose to ignore. The ignition of the mystery is the discovery of a body, only partially preserved, in a wooded area of Maine. There is initially no clue as to who she might be. One of the few defining characteristics of the woman’s corpse is evidence that she gave birth very shortly before her death.

Parker is brought into the mystery when he is retained by Moxie Castin, an attorney of his previous acquaintance, to quietly insinuate himself into the police investigation and determine the fate --- and potentially the location --- of the child. However, Parker and the police are not the only ones on this search. A ruthless hunter representing an even more chilling principal is doing the same, cutting a deadly trail through the Midwest without hesitation in the single-minded pursuit of his quarry. Meanwhile, the toy phone belonging to a five-year-old rings, and the voice of a long-dead woman urges the boy to join her.

Yes, there are many ticking clocks in THE WOMAN IN THE WOODS, including one occasioned by the rash and impulsive but nonetheless understandable act of Louis, Parker’s friend and sometime associate, which brings a member of Portland’s business elite into the mix. There is also a bit more revealed pertaining to the overall story arc about the search for the Buried God, a concept that periodically has kept me up at night between Parker novels. I sense that Connolly is going to resolve that issue within the next two or three books. Perhaps. Or perhaps not. He undoubtedly will scare his readers to death regardless.

THE WOMAN IN THE WOODS is complete in itself, even as it bridges the past and future of the series with its enigmatic ending, among other things. Connolly educates the reader along the way. If the name “Arthur Rackham” is not familiar to you now, it will be upon completion of the book. You also will think twice about what you read to your children and grandchildren late at night, as darkness washes over the bedroom windows. Actually, you may think twice about what you read for yourself at day’s end. I'm not going to call THE WOMAN IN THE WOODS Connolly’s masterpiece, but it's wondrous enough to be indistinguishable from whatever might be.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on June 15, 2018

The Woman in the Woods
by John Connolly

  • Publication Date: May 14, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
  • ISBN-10: 1501171933
  • ISBN-13: 9781501171932