Chapters 34-44

This group of chapters is characterized by a lot of what I tend to think of as “back-and-forthing,” the tendency for characters to do a lot of running around between multiple locations, returning periodically to a central location. It’s a fairly common habit in writers of mystery and detective fiction, as it lends itself well to info-dumps and exposition for the investigators. The broad structure here is; Parker goes to a location with an ally, comes back to the hotel and has Rachel offer a new insight into the Traveling Man’s motives based on her independent research. Occasionally this pattern is broken for the sake of an action sequence.

The broad points are as follows:

  • At the funeral for the Tante Marie and her children, Parker is told that the ghost of a girl has been seen by Honey Island.
  • Rachel notes that the Traveling Man quotes from an apocryphal Bilical text, the Book of Enoch.
  • David Fontenot is killed and the body found near Honey Island. Parker speaks to Joe Bones, who denies involvement with anything happening.
  • Tony Remarr, official suspect in the Tante Marie slaying’s, is found by Parker, flayed.
  • Rachel discovers that all of the Traveling Man’s victims have been posed in a way that resembles a classical anatomy illustration, while Woolrich reveals that a hospital orderly named Edward Byron-present at the birth of Parker’s daughter-was fired for mutilating female corpses shortly before the murder of Parker’s family and lives near Baton Rogue.
  • Parker and Rachel attend David Fontenot’s funeral, which is attacked by Joe Bones’ gunmen. Rachel and Parker each kill an attacker, providing the impetus for their relationship to be consummated.
  • Parker goes with Morphy to Honey Island and finds a dumping ground filled with old metal cannisters. In a nod to the supernatural overtones, Parker somehow homes in on one with a body, that forensic identification reveals is that of Lutice Fontenot.
  • Parker talks to Lionel Fontenot and learns that David had been having visions of Lutice after her disappearance. When he returns to the hotel, his, Rachel’s, and Angel and Louis’ rooms have been raided by the FBI and Rachel’s research confiscated. Rachel declares that the common link between all of Traveling Man’s kills, save Lutice Fontenot, is that they are, in some sense, modeled on memento moris.

The big set pieces here are the shoot-out at the cemetary and the dive for bodies at Honey Island, but even these take up less time and seem imbued with less dramatic weight than Rachel’s research and the infodumps. The plot seems to be barreling forward in many ways, especially after the entire business with the Modine case, which largely in hindsight feels like a side-story. It is almost as if Connolly had two stories, neither of which was a full novel, and grafted them together. This isn’t a complaint, but it’s an interesting “first novel” trick that explains many of the seeming gaps and stutters in the narrative.

Returning to the “Parker is a chump” theme for a moment, there are two scenes that stand out. The first, is Parker actually acting like a real detective and making a chart of everything he knows about TM, presumptive suspect Edward Byron, and all the killings, and drawing literal connections between them. Doing so makes it clear that the only killings that stand out from the pattern is Lutice Fontenot. That this would be a signal to dig significantly deeper occurs to Parker, but not as urgently as it might. The second is Louis insisting to Parker that Woolrich is not trust-worthy, dismissed by Parker as Louis-hitman with a conscience, being overly suspicious. Even Rachel, who at this point is not very familiar with Louis and Angel, remarks that Louis in particular has a close bond and link with Parker, and that, perhaps, he should be listened to.

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