In THE BURNING SOUL, John Connolly once again perfectly balances the elements of a great story: character, story (plot) and place.

If you’ve read Connolly before, you know that his characters are fascinating in their imperfection. Private detective Charlie Parker is at once tragic and fearless, haunted and brave, sensitive and violent. Somehow, though, it all makes sense. And just as the Chicago Bulls in their Michael Jordan heyday would not have been the best basketball team the world will ever see without supporting players like Scottie Pippen and Bill Cartwright, the people in Charlie’s world are each as mesmerizing as the next (Angel and Louis are two of the best supporting characters in modern literature).

THE BURNING SOUL is about a man with a past, one that involves the death of a young girl many years ago. When another young girl goes missing in a small town in Maine, it’s not long before Charlie’s involved, along with all those around him, including Angel, Louis, numerous kinds of cops, and some organized crime gents from Boston who bear a striking resemblance to real-life characters from Southie and Dorchester.

As in Connolly’s previous books, Maine and her towns are as much characters as those the biped variety, and just as I do after reading each of his books, they make me think that a home in Maine doesn’t sound half bad, even with feet of snow in the winter, because the landscape and its denizens are just so fascinating.

I have infinite respect for Connolly both as an author and as a person. As a person because he is smart and funny, genuinely appreciates his readers, and also because he shares my infinite disdain for Michelle Bachmann. As an author, Connolly respects his readers enough to give us characters and stories that are anything but one-dimensional. In THE BURNING SOUL, we see that mobsters can be motivated by devotion, judges can make mistakes even with the best of intentions, and bad guys often appear to be anything but.

THE BURNING SOUL is not a quick read. It is a page-turner, yes, but in the sense that readers turn each page only having savored it completely. As the days shorten and we drag the sweaters from the back of the closet, it is an ideal escapist read, a story in which readers can utterly lose themselves.

If you’re new to John Connolly, THE BURNING SOUL is a great place to start. His Charlie Parker books are a series, but most of them work perfectly as stand-alones, this one especially. This is a book we’ll be talking about for a long time, one we point to as an exemplary addition to the crime fiction literary landscape.

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