The Instruments of Darkness by John Connolly Review

THE INSTRUMENTS OF DARKNESS, the twenty-first novel in John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series, is a riveting piece of fiction that seamlessly blends mystery and the supernatural against a shadowy backdrop of horror in an inscrutable, earthy Maine setting.

A young mother, Colleen Clark, stands accused and faces trial for the worst crime a mother can commit, the murder of her child. She claims someone entered the house in the middle of the night and abducted her infant son, and he is still missing. But based on a singular piece of damning evidence, the prosecution, the police, most of her neighbors, and even her own husband Stephen believe she’s guilty and that she disposed of the child’s body. To make matters even worse for Colleen, the local prosecutor and the state attorney general want to use her case to further their political aspirations by convicting her and sending her to prison. But her attorney Moxie Castin believes she is innocent. He hires private investigator Charlie Parker to help him find evidence that exonerates Colleen Clark or at least destroys the state’s weak case. Parker, also convinced of Colleen’s innocence, investigates and soon has plenty of questions about who is responsible for the abduction and possible murder of Colleen’s two-year-old son, Henry, and looks for answers. That puts him on a collision course with the caretakers of an old, twisted house deep within the Maine woods, and the protectors of its evil secrets. As he’s drawn closer to the heart of the mystery and begins to unravel the truth, the greater the peril Parker faces.

Author John Connolly delivers another hauntingly powerful tale with The Instruments of Darkness. This book offers a stark reminder of the folly of regarding everything we cannot explain as phony.

It was only recently that I read my first Charlie Parker novel, Every Dead Thing, the first in the series. By the time I read this one, I had already binged-read the first five novels. I had by then a good feel for the character and had taken the measure of Connolly’s writing style, which I find brilliant. Connolly’s unique strength is weaving together many threads in his stories that add depth and intrigue, and that create apprehension in the reader akin to waiting for an inevitable impending train wreck, as the competing narratives surge toward a shocking climax. 

The background of the Michaud family and the heinous events that take place on their land over generations is an aspect of the narrative that helps create an atmosphere of palpable tension building tantalizingly throughout the story. Connolly blends the compelling supernatural element and adroitly explores the way people’s actions leave an imprint on the earth—whether concrete or ethereal.

Despite the hefty length of the book, five hundred plus words, Connolly has crafted a succinct and efficient plot with no wasted pages, taking the time and space needed to develop an absorbing mystery and the host of well-rounded characters. Who knew a mystery and detective novel could be so terrifying? Even horror fans are going to love this novel. And for Connolly’s thriller and suspense fans, this is classic Charlie Parker.

Emily Bestler Books/Altria, an imprint of Simon & Schuster LLC first published The Instruments of Darkness on May 07, 2024. I received an advance reader’s copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley used for this review, which represents my honest opinions.

Book rating: ★★★★★

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