Openers: The tide rolled in, erasing the first of the footprints in the sand, like the memory of a presence gradually being excised from the history of the beach. The marks were small, as of those being left by a child, except no child had walked there, or none that Parker had noticed; yet when he looked up from his book, the evidence was before him. Bare feet: he could discern the marks of the toes, and the rounded indentations of the soles and heels. The footprints ended within a few yards of the tree against which he sat, as though the visitor had regarded Parker for a time before moving on.
But the prints progressed only in one direction, and seemed to ascend from the sea: an emergent ghost, arrived unnoticed, come to bear witness in silence
Parker removed his glasses, cursing -- not for the first time -- the necessity of them. His optometrist had suggested progressive lenses, which struck Parker as a fancier name for bifocals. It was an error she was unlikely to make again. Parker regarding progressives as a short step from adopting a pince-nez, or wearing spectacles on a gold chain while smelling of cheap sherry. Now, non-progressive lenses in hand, he looked left and right, but it was an instinctive response and nothing more, because he did not really expect to glimpse her: the lost daughter, this revenant being.
-- John Connolly, The Dirty South (2020)
The eighteenth novel in Connolly's Charlie Parker thriller series takes us the small, poverty-laden town of Cargill, Arkansas, in the late 1990s, during the Clinton administration. Cargill had already been moribund when the last timber mill had closed a decade before, but now the town and its county (the smallest, poorest in the state) had a chance at revival thanks to Bubba in the White House. The town was one of two locations in the South being considered for a major corporate investment -- one that could add 1500 jobs to the area and mark the town's rebirth. Nothing could be allowed to interfere with that, not even murder. When teenaged Patricia Hartley's nude and savagely desecrated body was found a while ago, the higher ups in the County white-washed the matter, declaring it an accident despite the fact that she had been butchered and had branched impaled in several, orifices. Besides, it didn't really matter because the dead girl was black.
Enter Charlie Parker, a tortured and haunted former policeman on a mission of his own. Parkers wife and daughter had been murdered a few months before, their bodies skinned. Parker was methodologically investigating brutal, unsolved murders throughout the country in the hopes of finding the man who slaughtered his family. His search brought him to Cargill and Patricia Hartley and a similarly murdered black teenage girl some five years before. He soon decides that these murders were not the work of the man he was seeking, but before he was able to leave town, another murder happened -- another young, black girl brutally slaughtered. This victim had ties to a local meth operation and had been the lover of several local men. Not the sort of publicity the town needed when it was so close to revitalization.
The Charlie Parker series is laced with the supernatural, although Parker himself is firmly based in the real world. Parker has gone up against some of the most vicious and skilled murderers on the planet and has merged, if not quite unscathed, at least victorious. The ghost of his daughter often appears to warn of real danger to the detective. When her unseen ghost leaves footprints in the sand at the beginning of the book, we are in the present time. Parker is getting older, his vision getting worse, and the hint of the revenant is a harbinger of a phone call that will take Parker's memory back to the past and to Cargill.
By the way, the book Parker is reading at the start of the book is Louis L'Amour's Education of a Wandering Man.
The Charlie Parker series is highly recommended, as is all of Connolly's other work.
Danger, Will Robinson! Danger! Stupidity Overload!...Aargh!:
From the "I Can't Even" Files: These past few days/weeks/months/four years are beginning to get to me. From Rudy's melting head to his flatulence to his "star witness," from Trump's outrageous lies to his distortion of reality to the real danger he has placed this country in, from Kelly Loeffler to Rona McDaniel to Kayleigh McEnany, from QAnon to QAnon to QAnon...I just can't even...
So I'm going back to bed. I will assume the prenatal position and pull the covers over my head.
And, instead of the rest of my typical Monday post, I leave you with 1957's Viking Women and the Sea Serpent, a film only notable for its lack of Rudy Guiliani.
Or, for those who prefer their schlock less schocky, here's the MST3k take on the film.
Enjoy your day.