Archive for the “Every Dead Thing” Category

Chapters 45-50, Epilogue

As the story approaches its climax events begin accelerating again, mostly in the “tie a bow on it all” sense. Rachel’s analysis of the Traveling Man’s crimes make it increasingly clear that Parker is the primary target of the “messages” that TM is sending, but that he appears to be becoming bolder and more spectacular in his efforts. Louis offers a contrasting view based on his own experiences, which is that TM simply enjoys killing people and wants attention. As plot threads tie up, Parker accompanies the Fontenot’s on a raid of Joe Bones compound, in retaliation for the attacks on the funeral. Bones, before being dispatched by the Fontenot’s men indicates that he has been in contact, in some form, with the Traveling Man, but refuses to tell Parker anything. Rachel, disgusted by Parker’s involvement with a targeted killing, decides to return to New York, just as someone leaks the details of the Traveling Man’s crimes to the press in New Orleans. In our final example of “chump Parker” in this book, it is obvious, from the details and the curious omission of Parker’s name from the press, that the leak came from someone within the FBI. To make matters worse, the Traveling Man kills Morphy and his wife, Parker’s contact with the local police in New Orleans, giving every authority in the area an excuse to send Parker home, as his presence is clearly making matters worse.

While being escorted out of town by Morphy’s partner, words comes of another body of a young girl found near Honey Island in a barrel. The local police, taking advantage of Woolrich and the FBI manhunt raiding the just conveniently located hiding place of their main suspect in the Traveling Man murders, agree to keep Parker on briefly and not divulge the discovery to the FBI. Through, again, a remarkable set of lucky coincidences, the new body is identified as Lisa Woolrich, the estranged daughter of the FBI agent, who allegedly ran away from home to join a cult in Mexico. Parker, finally, begins to get a clue, and his suspicions are confirmed when, meeting Woolrich after the FBI raid, he casually asks about his daughter and is told that Woolrich spoke to her recently. The enormity of this confirmation of just how long Parker has been toyed with by a sociopath overwhelms him, and Woolrich, realizing the jig is up, has time to escape, kidnapping Rachel in the process.

Parker tracks Woolrich to the home of an ex-girlfriend that Woolrich claimed moved away but, in all likelihood, was another Traveling Man victim. The actual confrontation is quite short, considering the bulk of the book beforehand, and ends in a shootout between a ketamine drugged Parker and Woolrich, with Parker shooting Woolrich to death in a room filled with jars containing the faces of Woolrich’s victims-far more than the FBI, as led by Woolrich’s investigation, suspected. Woolrich has nothing much to offer in the way of justification; his explanations hew closer to Louis’ theory that he simply enjoys killing, those his justifications for targeting Parker veer towards Rachel’s theories, particularly in his excuse that Parker became his target for “parading” his family in front of him while Woolrich could see that Parker was, at the time, no more than a drunk, taking us back to the suggestion that Parker somehow brought this on himself and others for failing to live up to someone else’s standards. The epilogue closes us out with another visit by Parker to his family’s graves as he leaves New York for the upstate area and the home of his late grandfather, with Rachel, understandably, refusing to see him.

One of the things I find useful about rereading/rewatching things I’ve enjoyed is that it allows me to take a closer, more nuanced look at the thing. I enjoy Connolly’s novels tremendously, and the world he has created for Parker is deep and fascinating, and bridges the gap between “supernatural” and detective fiction in a way that makes me wish I was more talented and had thought of the idea first. And while many of the themes that become important in later books in the series are premiered here, much of this book doesn’t quite hang together as well is it maybe should. The hints that Woolrich is really the Traveling Man very quickly pass from “foreshadowing” into “the characters are idiots for not recognizing this” territory. The Adelaide Modine subplot doesn’t quite match up with the Traveling Man story; while it mirrors it in many ways, the stories feel like two separate incidents stitched together hastily. A lot of these flaws are understandable in light of this being Connolly’s first novel and the large amount of world-building that is taking place here, and the quality of the writing and strength of characterization more than makes up for it.

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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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Chapters 28-33

The denouement of the Adelaide Modine/Isobel Barton/Ferrera family plots comes rather quickly. The entirety of the mob subplot hinges on Sonny Ferrera’s involvement with Baton/Modine, and the large number of mob-related killings occurred as part of Ferrera pere‘s attempts to cover up the fact that Sonny had graduated from watching children being abused to killing them himself, culminating in the death of Sonny Ferrera at his father’s hands. Parker’s attempts to bring Barton/Modine to justice are briefly thwarted by her attempts to again fake her death. Cornering her after a car chase ending in her car crashing, in which Barton/Modine crashes, she has time to, conveniently, reveal that she knows who killed Parker’s family, before her gas tank ignites.

Debriefed at the police station, Walt Cole informs Parker that the entire reason he got him involved in this missing person case was because he had strong suspicions that someone at the Barton estate was involved with the disappearance of Evan Banes, and Parker, who he knows got away with the murder of the pimp Johnny Friday, might be able to recognize someone else who got away with murder. This notion of killers being able to somehow recognize each other is a metaphysical point that will be revisited in later books. We are also now given background on Parker’s father, which had been hinted at before but mostly glossed over. Parker’s father was a police officer, a patrolman, who killed two unarmed teenagers; a local “tough kid” and his girl-friend, before going home and killing himself. The crime was apparently motiveless and unprompted, but never fully investigated because the death of all parties implies closure. Before too much conversation on these points can occur, however, Parker is called by Tante Marie in Lousiana (the vooddoo woman from earlier chapters) because the Traveling Man is coming for her.

Traveling to the shack in the bayou with Woolrich, Parker and the feds arrive too late to prevent the murders of Tante Marie and her youngest son, both disemboweled and their faces removed. Florence, Tante Marie’s youngest daughter arrives at the scene last, and points a gun at Parker and Woolrich before killing herself. With these new deaths, the FBI now officially links the deaths of Parker’s wife and daughter to a serial killer. Setting up a wire-tap in his hotel room (which Parker briefly evades in order to contact Angel and Louis, as well as take a call from Rachel), the FBI waits for the Traveling Man to contact Parker. He does twice, first insisting that he won’t speak until Woolrich is also there, and the second time beginning the call with the instruction that Parker is not to talk. Curiously, TM calls Paker “Bird” throughout the call, a name which previously we had seen reserved only for Parker’s friends. TM also strongly implies that Parker and Woolrich are now “united in grief,” linked in a way similar to the way that TM implies he and Parker are linked.

A careful reading suggests that we are now witnessing another incident of our hero being blatantly played by the villain.

These chapters conclude with a local cop, Morphy, taking Parker on a a visual tour with lecture on the history of local crime-families. Mostly this focuses on Joe Bones, second-generation gangster whose father was killed for having an affair with a mixed-race woman, and the Fontenots, Cajun brothers running a racially integrated crime syndicate. Their styles are vastly different, with Bones going for violence and the Fontenots more focused on maintaining the veneer of businesslike behavior, but the important detail is that one of Bones’ lieutenants, Tony Remarr, was harassing Tante Marie in order to buy her land, and his bloody fingerprint was found at the crime scene.

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Chapters 22-27

Parker and Deputy Martin finally speak to Walt Tyler, father of the first victim of the Haven child killer, Adelaide Modine. Like Parker, Tyler is a man whose life has been overshadowed by the death of a daughter, but Tyler lacked the ability to pursue vengeance or justice in any meaningful way. This conversation mostly recaps information we were already given, with the only new fact being Tyler’s revelation that William Modine couldn’t possibly have been involved in the killings because Tyler saw him and Sheriff (then Deputy) Granger having sex in a squad car at the time of one of the abductions. Parker, to be honest, doesn’t seem particularly surprised by this revelation, or at least not as much as he is by finding out that Granger was part of the mob that lynched William Modine.. Returning to town, Parker learns that the woman who tried to kill him was stabbed in the hospital.

Parker travels to the house where the bodies of the dead children were discovered and searches it, finding it filled with debris and the usual detritus of teenagers who discover an abandoned building. A close inspection reveals a trap door with new hinges and locks that have been deliberately scuffed to make them appear to be old and rusted. Prying open the door, Parker enters the basement where the killings took place and finds, as he expected, the bodies of Catherine Demeter and Sheriff Granger. Catherine has been dead for days, probably as soon as she left New York, while the Sheriff has only been dead a short time. When he attempts to leave, he finds Connell Hyams with a gun, trying to lock him back into the basement. Parker is at a severe disadvantage, but the standoff is solved when Bobby Sciorra shoots Hyams from an open window in the house.

Knowing that there are four dead bodies now in town and that the FBI are soon to be searching for him, Parker chooses the wiser course and breaks into Hyams’ home in search of a connection to the Ferrera family. What he finds is a lease agreement for a warehouse owned by Sonny Ferrera. Parker calls Angel and Louis and arranges to meet them at the warehouse. Putting the pieces of the puzzle together, a clear picture emerges; Hyams was Adelaide Modine’s accomplice and he used his access to his father’s medical records to fake Modine’s death, it was Adelaide that Catherine Demeter saw in New York and Hyams was waiting for her when she returned to Haven. The only remaining questions are where is Adelaide Modine now, and why is the mob covering up for child killers and leaving a trail that leads back to themselves in the process?

At the warehouse, Parker, Angel and Louis find the body of Evan Banes, the boy who went missing from the Burton estate some months back. In his hands are the broken pieces of a blue china dog, the twin of a statuette belonging to Isabel Burton. There is also evidence of a video recording system and a suggestion that, buried in the warehouse, are many more bodies. Sciorra arrives at the scene, conveniently explains that Sonny Ferrera likes to watch, and gets killed by Louis as soon as his exposition ends.

In hindsight, much of this was obvious. Everyone involved in setting up Parker to search for Catherine Demeter lied to him; there were simply no strong links between Catherine and Stephen Burton, so Isobel had to have an ulterior motive. Once the specter of Adelaide Modine was introduced it’s a short link. The mob angle throws a wrinkle into it, but since one of the main tropes of detective fiction is that all the cases must link together, it isn’t a surprise that they would also have a part to play.

It is worth noting that, despite the fact that the main investigation is over save for the unmasking of the perp, we are still only about half-way through the book.

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Chapters 17-21

These chapters open with Parker determined to continue investigating Catherine Demeter’s disappearance, despite Walter Cole’s insistence that he stay and help the police track the Traveling Man, on the theory that, now that he has made contact with Parker he will seek to further the dialogue. After a discussion with psychologist Rachel Wolfe, inserting the requisite amount of sexual tension into the story-as Rachel, we are told, is the first person to awaken any sexual feelings in Parker since his wife’s murder-Parker becomes even more convinced that he must leave. Both for his own psychological well being-staying away from the man who killed his family, but also to avoid feeding into the desires of a psychopath. It’s Rachel’s additional analysis of the killer that cements Parker’s resolve. She points out that the man is highly educated, quoting both Joyce and the Bible in his conversation with Parker, but also highly fixated on Parker. The man is a certain threat to Parker and should be treated as such.

Parker leaves for Haven, trailed by a man and a woman in a jeep, too clumsily obvious to be federal agents and too conspicuous to be mob hitmen. Haven, when he finally arrives, is a decrepit, decaying town, a backwater in every sense. There is no industry to speak of and the shadows of the child murders still hang heavily over the town. It’s here that some of Connolly’s strengths as a writer become apparent. He is able to very quickly sketch out believable characters for what are essentially supportive and expository roles by relying on character types. Familiar tropes that everyone is familiar with, allowing us to essentially get on with the story because we know what type a particular character is. Not that Connolly doesn’t sometimes over play this; Haven is populated primarily with racists and rednecks so outlandishly cartoonish as to pose a serious challenge to suspension of disbelief. A scene where Parker endears himself to the locals and attracts the attention of the police by picking a fight with wannabe Klansmen in a bar does much to increase Parker’s “badass antihero” quotient, but the effect is mitigated by having the odds stacked so broadly in his favor.

Parker’s investigations lead him to the library, where the microfilm of the local newspaper for the period of the murders has been hidden in the librarian’s office. Breaking in and reading it nets Parker the information that, prior to the disappearance of Catherine’s sister, the only local attention the crimes garnered were insinuations that the father of the first victim is responsible for disappearances of other black children. Breaking in also nets Parker a visit to the police station and a talk with Deputy Martin, a black officer transplanted from Detroit and apparently the only semi-competent officer in Haven. He warns Parker out of town, as bad publicity might scare off semi-mythical “Japanese investors” the town is relying on to get back on its feet, but ultimately agrees to arrange for Parker to interview local attorney Connell Hyams and Walt Tyler, father of the first victim.

Hyams doesn’t offer Parker much in the way of information, citing both client confidentiality and the fact that he was technically away at law school at the time of the crimes, but he does provide an interesting insight into Adelaide Modine. She was born a twin, but her twin brother was still-born. Hyams compares Modine and her family’s affect on Haven to that of a hyena pack, in that brutally metaphoric way that so many of Connolly’s characters have of talking. The Modine’s were a matriarchal and fraticidal family and they despoiled the region. It’s a quirk of Connolly’s to have characters talk in such self-consciously literary ways, but it’s one of the small details about his work I find pleasurable.

That evening, Parker’s precautions of breaking into the room next to his hotel room and sleeping there instead pay off, as the man and woman from the jeep break into the room he was supposed to be in and start firing. In a short action sequence Parker kills the man and beats the woman into a coma, suffering some heavy blood loss from a shotgun near miss in exchange. Deputy Martin is even more eager to have Parker leave town, but after some eavesdropping on a phone call with Walter Cole decides that the attempt on Parker’s life indicates that Catherine Demeter is in real danger and quite probably in Haven somewhere. That his superior, the sheriff whom Catherine contacted, is still missing-or rather, “on vacation”-goes some way to driving this home.

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