The Dirty South

Mysterious Book Report No. 420

by John Dwaine McKenna

In the NOW, a man who’s pledged to destroy evil, an extraordinary detective, ace P.I., and ex-NYPD Homicide Investigator named Charlie Parker, senses “wrongness approaching and trouble circling” at the start of John Connolly’s newest: The Dirty South, (Emily Bestler Books/Atria, $28.00, 438 pages, ISBN 978-1-9821-2754-1).  He walks home and waits . . . for whatever misfortune is about to come his way.  So, he’s ready when the phone rings and a voice he hasn’t spoken to in decades says, “They pulled a body from the Karagol.”  That’s followed two sentences later by:  “In the end, the past claims us all.”

And so begins THEN, which tells the story of who, what, how and when the body came to be in the lake . . . and most importantly . . . why.

It’s sometime in the 1990s. Bill Clinton, the former Governor of Arkansas, has been elected President of the United States and the residents of Cargill, a small town located smack-dab in the middle of the poorest county in Clinton’s former state, are breathlessly, eagerly and impatiently awaiting the arrival of prosperity.  It’s been promised, is the often heard, often repeated mantra of the long-suffering residents.  We have to be patient.  It’s gonna come.  It’s been promised . . .

Cargill is still waiting, late into Clinton’s second term.  The Cade family, under the leadership of aging patriarch Delane “Pappy” Cade, has been amassing a real estate empire in anticipation of a boom—and better times—coming to their small corner of the world.  It finally might happen too, that long-dreamed of prosperity, if Cargill and Burdon County Arkansas is picked to be the place where a huge multinational corporation by the name of KOVAS, builds it’s new facility.  Cargill, and somewhere in Texas are the finalists.  It’s come down to one or the other, with Cargill the apparent favorite because of subtle help from President Clinton.

There’s only one problem.  The ritualized and savage murders of three teenage girls . . . two in the last three months, and another back in 1993.  The nature of the killings are what’s drawn Charlie Parker to town . . . he’s tracking the serial killer who tortured and murdered his wife and daughter . . . and after a rocky start in which Parker spends his first night in the Cargill jail, he agrees to put his expertise to work, helping to solve the monstrous slayings, before word gets out and blows the KOVAS deal.  The fate of the entire county hangs in the balance.

The electrifying action and relentless pacing, combined with Mr. Connolly’s engaging writing style, will keep new and old fans alike, face-down in the pages, reading until late, late at night.  As his work is becoming more widely read and recognized for its originality and sheer genius, John Connolly is at last receiving the world-wide fame that he so richly deserves.  Read him for yourself and discover why!

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