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September 16, 2012 / John Sheridan

The Wrath of the Kings of Cool Angels

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I’ve recently read the latest books from two of my favourite authors – Don Winslow and John Connolly. I’ve been a long time fan of both going back over 10 years in each case with my initial introductions being The Death and Life of Bobby Z and Every Dead Thing respectively. Why is this relevant? Well, John Connolly’s The Wrath of Angels (Amazon UK) is obviously the latest in the Charlie Parker series and although it is not published in the States until January it was published in the UK and Ireland in August. The Kings of Cool (Amazon UK) is a prequel to Savages (Amazon UK). Ten years later and they are both among the superstars of the mystery / thriller writing community and for good reason because even when they’re not necessarily on top of their game they can still deliver a well crafted story that’s exceedingly well written.

The Wrath of Angels opens with the story alternating between Charlie Parker sitting in a bar listening to the story being recounted of a plane containing $200000 being found in the woods and in flashback style bringing you back directly to the incident in question.

If you read the Charlie Parker series then you’ll be familiar with the supernatural element of the novels and the accompanying angels that occasionally surface and from there it is just a small jump to resurrection but if good can rise again then so too can evil and in that way Charlie may have to face demons again that he has encountered and vanquished previously. If you don’t enjoy this element of the series then this book won’t be for you as here Connolly embraces the supernatural wholeheartedly. We have the usual cast of characters covering Parker himself, his in equal parts menacing and amusing accomplices Louis & Angel as well as Rabbi Epstein and The Collector. The Collector is an intriguing character as although he seems to side with the forces of good he is basically a serial killer even if those he kills are irredeemably evil and naturally is it very difficult to reconcile those opposing traits. A plane wreck deep in the heart of the woods that contains a list of names attracts those on both sides but no-one is quite sure about the nature of the list – does it contain the names of the damned or those of interest to them? As Parker’s name is on the list he needs to find the wreck and the rest of the list, of course first he has to survive the attentions of Epstein and his companions as well as The Collector.

It is well written and enjoyable without ever quite hitting the highs of some of the other books in the series, just missing the tension or suspense to set it apart. My rating is 8 out of 10 – maybe a point or two less if you’re not already a fan of Connolly’s work like me.

Amazon Description: In the depths of the Maine woods, the wreckage of an aeroplane is discovered. There are no bodies, and no such plane has ever been reported missing, but men both good and evil have been seeking it for a long, long time. What the wreckage conceals is more important than money: it is power. Hidden in the plane is a list of names, a record of those who have struck a deal with the Devil. Now a battle is about to commence between those who want the list to remain secret and those who believe that it represents a crucial weapon in the struggle against the forces of darkness.

The race to secure the prize draws in private detective Charlie Parker, a man who knows more than most about the nature of the terrible evil that seeks to impose itself on the world, and who fears that his own name may be on the list. It lures others too: a beautiful, scarred woman with a taste for killing; a silent child who remembers his own death; and the serial killer known as the Collector, who sees in the list new lambs for his slaughter.

But as the rival forces descend upon this northern state, the woods prepare to meet them, for the forest depths hide other secrets.

Someone has survived the crash.
Some thing has survived the crash.
And it is waiting . . .

The Kings of Cool
With the same sparse writing style that sparked life into Savages in The Kings of Cool we step back in time to when Ben and Chon first got involved with the drugs trade and even further to their predecessors. It also contains references to a number of other characters from Winslow’s previous work including Bobby Z and Frank Machianno aka Frankie Machine from The Winter of Frankie Machine (Amazon UK) (funnily enough spellcheck tried changing that to “macho ammo” which does convey the right general impression!). A nice interweaving of characters from his other works with a few unexpected surprises but the overall impression conveyed is rather low key. For a fan like me you’ll appreciate this one but newcomers may be best served starting into Winslow’s body of work elsewhere. Like the aforementioned Connolly, my rating is also 8 out of 10 (and again I should include a disclaimer that I may as a fan be inclined to be more generous than usual).

Amazon Description: In Savages, Don Winslow introduced Ben and Chon, twentysomething best friends who risk everything to save the girl they both love, O. Among the most celebrated literary thrillers in recent memory, Savages was a Top 10 Book of 2010 selection in the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly and in publications around the world.

Now, in his high-octane prequel, Winslow reaches back in time to tell the story of how Ben, Chon and O became the people they are. Spanning fifty years, from 1960s Southern California to the recent past, it is a tale of family in all its forms – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, friends and lovers. As the younger generation does battle with a cabal of drug dealers and crooked cops, they come to learn that their future is inextricably linked with their parents’ history. A series of breakneck twists and turns puts the two generations on a collision course, culminating in a stunning showdown that will ultimately force Ben, Chon and O to choose between their real families, and their love for each other.

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