The Instruments of Darkness: A Thriller (21) (Charlie Parker)

Image of The Instruments of Darkness: A Thriller (21) (Charlie Parker)
Release Date: 
May 7, 2024
Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Reviewed by: 

“Moxie Castlin was easy to underestimate, but only on first impression. He was overweight by the equivalent of a small child, didn't use one word in public when five others were loitering nearby with nothing better to do, and had a taste for the reminiscent of the markings of poisonous insects or the nightmares of LSD survivors. He subsisted largely on fried food, coffee, and the Maine soda that had given him a nickname, now long since passed into common usage: since he had been christened Oleg. Moxie sounded better to him. He lost cases, but not many, and his friends far outnumbered his enemies.”

And so, in the first chapter of The Instruments of Darkness, the 21st book in the Charlie Parker series by international and New York Times bestselling author, John Connolly, we meet Moxie who is defending Colleen Clark, a mother accused of abducting and possibly murdering her two-year-old son Henry. It’s a heinous case and everyone, the police and general public, and especially the politicians who have an election coming up, think Colleen is guilty. After all, she was home, supposedly asleep when Henry disappeared. Her husband, Henry’s father, had been away on a business trip.

But it doesn’t matter if the world is against you when you have Moxie and Charlie Parker, a private investigator

Everyone does seem to be against Colleen, including Henry’s father, Stephen Clark, who stirs the pot. Because of his outspoken concerns, the police search Colleen’s car and discover a blanket soaked in Henry’s blood in the wheel well of her car. Rumors about Colleen begin to circulate and as Parker, who narrates the story, wryly says they were unfounded, but that is no obstacle as unfounded rumors are the best kind.

The book lives up to its title, there is definitely darkness surrounding the case and the community. Others have disappeared without a trace. And there’s a touch of the supernatural to give the readers a few shivers as Parker tries to help Moxie take on a case where even before the trial a guilty verdict has been decided.

Connolly, who lives in Dublin, Ireland, has written more than 30 books, is the author of several series including the Samuel Johnson trilogy, the Lost Things stories, and (with @JennieRidyard), the Chronicles of the Invaders. He writes long, weaving  a complex mystery-thriller full of twists and turns, and peopled with intriguing characters, some benign and eccentric, others scary including a gang of fascists who are readying for war; and a psychic who says that the dead, including a woman named Verona Walter, frequently appeal to help from Walter, who, it seems, is dead and buried but still in contact with the living.

But there’s more to deal with than fascists and a psychic that talks to the dead, there’s the house, seemingly in ruins, deep in the dark Maine woods and exerting an unnatural and dangerous force.

As Connolly describes an interaction between two people as they approach the isolated home.

“Pinnette tried to tear his gaze away from the house but found he could not. While it might have looked abandoned, he was not convinced it was quite empty. Certain structures, while appearing uninhabited, retained about them a sense of occupation, as though a latent presence had infused the very boards. As he and Unger observed the house, Pinette could not help but feel that the house was observing them in turn: not someone in the house but the house itself.”

It will take all of Parker’s detective skills to overcome the obstacles he faces to help Moxie with his client, all the while trying to stay safe.