The Wolf in Winter by John Connolly (Emily Bestler, Oct 28th, 2014)-Prosperous, Maine is an interesting little town. The name is a perfect fit, because for ages, they’ve been a town of prosper, and tolerance, and general well-being, and if their little church, the Congregation of Adam Before Eve & Eve Before Adam (brought brick by brick from Northumbria, in England), is a little odd, well, there are always odd little things in small towns, right? Outsiders are not very welcome, and home sales, who leave, who stays and just about everything else, are tightly monitored and decided by the town selectmen. Things are not looking good in Prosperous right now, though. A homeless man named Jude has died by apparent suicide and his daughter Annie, who has had problems of her own, has gone missing, and she’s thought to have gone to Prosperous. Before he died, Jude, with very modest resources, planned to hire Charlie Parker to look into his daughter’s disappearance, and word does indeed get back to Charlie.
It’s almost impossible for Charlie to ignore someone in need, and when he follows up on Jude’s “suicide”, something doesn’t look right, and he starts asking around. When he visits Prosperous, their police chief, Lucas Morland, seems to be forthcoming, and he even escorts Charlie to their “quaint” little church but all paths seem to lead to Prosperous, and Paster Warraner rubs Charlie the wrong way, as do the very creepy carvings in the upper corners of each wall; faces right out of some dark fairy tale. Charlie knows something is going on, but finding out what will be a chore, so he calls on some friends for help. Little does he know he’s been marked to die, and his enemies are legion. But as we know, Charlie’s got lots of friends, and a reputation that precedes him, but will it be enough, and will he find out what really happened to Jude and Annie?
If you’re a fan of this series, you know that Charlie Parker is no stranger to darkness and things beyond the pale, and while he’s got quite a few pokers in the fire, this books sees him with a stronger sense of hope than in previous installments, which makes some of the events of the book even more tragic. Louis and Angel play a huge part in this one, and they end up helping Charlie with the Prosperous case as well as tracking down the Collector, who may or may not be looking to make a deal. Prosperous is a creepy, insidious little town, but instead of putting it firmly in the “pure evil” category, Connolly gives quite a few of its citizens a full fleshing out, especially Morland and the elderly town leader Hayley Conyer. Morland is a complex guy, and it would have been really easy to cast him as a baddie, but, as happens so often in these books, he’s painted in various shades of grey, and even comes across as sympathetic at times. Conyer is a little hard to sympathize with, and Morland isn’t really her biggest fan either, but Prosperous is a character unto itself, and its history is fascinating, and terrifying.
There’s an event in the second half that left me reeling, and changed the narrative completely, but through it all, I was riveted while Connelly worked his very particular brand of dark magic. The Wolf in Winter is thoroughly spooky, engrossing, and even introspective, and I loved it. This is, as always, a series not to be missed, and Wolf is one of the best yet.