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The Dirty South

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Charlie Parker has resigned from the police force and is crossing the country in search of the killer of his wife and daughter. Having heard of a particularly gruesome murder in small town Cargill, Arkansas, he stops to check it out. Unfortunately, he quickly gets himself on the wrong side of the law and ends up in a police cell overnight. However, the police officer who arrested Parker, on learning his experience as a cop in New York, asks him to help with the investigation. At first, he refuses but he eventually reluctantly agrees to help. 

He quickly begins to regret his decision. Cargill is poor and is run by a single family that has a plan to bring back prosperity and the murder of a young Black girl could interfere with this plan. One of the members of the family is the sheriff of the district who has already listed a similar murder as an accident but the police chief is determined to prevent this. As a result, there is a battle for jurisdiction of the murder between the district and the town and Parker quickly finds himself caught in the middle.

I've gotta admit I am a huge fan of the Charlie Parker series by John Connolly and The Dirty South didn't change my mind. It's the 18th in the series but takes the story back to the beginning. As in past books, the characters, both old and new, are well fleshed out with witty dialogue and interesting back stories and the pace is fast but never so much that it distracts from the story. For those who know the series, the usual touch of the supernatural is missing here but that's okay because it's still one cracking good mystery.

<i>Thanks to Netgalley and Atria Books for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review</i>
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I'd read (and enjoyed) a few books in the Charlie Parker series back when they were new, but I fell away from the series. I remembered them a while back and thought with the pandemic and lockdowns underway this was as good a time as any to get reacquainted with an old friend. While I was trying to remember where I'd left the series, I noticed John Connolly had just written a prequel to the series. Surely that was a sign.

Happily, the series is as good as I remember, possibly better. This entry presents the origin story of the books, how Charlie became the man he is. I don't think anyone will be disappointed by this book. The writing and characters are fantastic and this is a solid addition to the series, and a perfect place for newcomers to jump in.

I am grateful to Atria Books and Netgalley for the opportunity to read Dirty South (and rekindle my love for this series) in return for my honest opinion.
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A Southern Gothic gem. Connolly weaves a complex, completely satisfying tale of murder, greed, Southern politics, redemption and all the other goodies you'd expect, only told with an astounding originality. The author's goals are extremely ambitious and he pulls them off on all counts. I highly recommend.
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I do love me some Charlie Parker... This prequel / origin story was excellent. I'm a relatively new fan of the series, having only read a few of the books, and thought this felt chronologically very much like the writing and story style of the first Parker novel, in its focus on the evil of men and how that drives the other types of evil that Parker winds up facing over time... The writing was excellent as always, as were the plotting and pacing. It was delightful to see Angel and Louis in a brief cameos here, and to see the origins of so many Parker relationships end personality quirks. If you're new to the series, this is as good a place to start as any - there are some references at the beginning and end to later events, but having not read very far in the series myself, I didn't find them to be problematic. Chalk up another win for John Connolly!
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In The Dirty South, set in 1999, Connolly has written a prequel to his series of Charlie Parker thrillers. Here we are presented with Parker, not overlong after the killings of his wife and daughter. He has embarked on a new path, his search for their killer. This search takes him to various places around the country, following reports of strange, unusual, even ritualistic murders. Murders that might relate in some way to the those of his family. That’s what leads him to Arkansas and to a case that, in the end, has nothing to do with him but from which he can’t step away.

Here we see the Charlie Parker who will become a dogged searcher for evil in human form but without the almost paranormal qualities found later in the series. We also see the early formation of his “team,” those who have chosen to stand by and with him since his family’s murders. We see his personal code of right and wrong, his deep sorrow. In addressing the deaths of these young women in Arkansas, he seems to be setting a course for his future. In working with those who are right-minded in law enforcement, he is establishing his procedures. He has little time for the corrupt.

Recommended to all who read John Connolly’s Charlie Parker novels and perhaps as an introduction for others. There is violence though not on the scale of some of the earlier books.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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While The Dirty South is the 18th in a series of Charlie Parker novels, it is a 'origins' story, taking us back to the time right after the murders. Like every one of his novels, The Dirty South is a dark and complex novel, fast-paced, and dramatic. Connolly creates great characters, rich dialog, and unforgiving tension.  

Connolly's many fans will find another side of the Irish author and Parker inside the book - the writing is filled with self-reflection and meditative thoughts on life, death, sadness, grief, and the afterlife.  The Charlie Parker novels have always had an 'otherness' or supranatural quality about them. Parker's life is haunted (sometimes literally) by that which he can not comprehend.  In this novel, the author begins to explore those mysteries, this awareness that there is a world out there that we can neither see nor imagine.

The Dirty South, like all of Connoly's books in this series, is well worth reading (in order, please).  I highly recommend the book with one caveat - Connelly's books are addictive.
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"Vengeance and retribution require a long time; it is the rule." - Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Burdon County, Arkansas, 1977 - Someone is killing women. But no one wants to admit to it. Charlie Parker, a former police detective, is in town, following a lead, looking for a killer. His wife and daughter have been murdered. He desperately wants to find the person who did this.

"I am a widower. I do not know if there is a name for one that has lost a child. If there is, there should not be. It is unnatural."

He is sitting in a jail cell, those in town are trying to figure out who he is and why he is in town. Boy will they be surprised. This is a prequel which shows of the beginning of Charlie Parker becoming Charlie Parker. This would work as a stand-alone, but I agree with other reviewers, to fully appreciate this book, you need to go back to the beginning or at least to earlier books. Parker has lost a lot. He is consumed with pain. He is also a hunter; he solves crimes and mysteries aided by Louis and Angel.

"The past defines us. In the end, the past claims us all."

There is not as much Parker in this book as I would have liked. With him, I always want more. The book is about a town, that does not appear to have a lot going for it, there is crime, there are grudges, deep secrets, corruption, intimidation, greed, and a promise that money will come to the town if they just keep quiet.

This will not be one of my favorite books in the series, but it will not be my least favorite better. This is one of my favorite and initially was not sure if this book was necessary. But as I continued reading, I must admit Connolly is showing us how the Parker I enjoy in other books, became that way. One thing that I feel Connolly excels at is giving us a glimpse into Parker's pain over losing his wife and daughter. Those passages are heartbreaking and beautiful.

"I want to be with you again. I do not want to live in this world without you. But I have to stay. I will find him, the one who did this, and when I am done with him, I will search for you both. I will leave this place, and I will travel to where you are. Wait for me. Listen for me. I will come."

I also wanted more of Louis and Angel. But I also liked how they came to help.

"When it comes time, you only have to ask. You call our names, you hear? You call our names."

The book started strong, lagged a little in the middle for me, then picked up again. As I said, this book is different from the other books in the series and it reads as such. Beautifully written and compelling.

Thank you to Atria Books and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.
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Thank you Netgalley for the opportunity to read The Dirty South by John Connolly.  If you are a fan of the Charlie Parker series, this is a must read.  If you have NEVER read any of the Parker series, I suggest you start now.
John Connelly presents a flawed character, Charlie Parker, who has suffered a terrible tragedy - the murder of his wife and daughter many years ago.  
The Dirty South takes the reader back in time, and this is a departure from Connolly's previous novels.  I found I got a better understanding of what happened to his family, a clearer picture of the characters i have come to love, and some new characters that are vividly portrayed.
The Dirty South is different and very well written.  Fans - you won't be disappointed.
5 stars - Recommend.
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The Dirty South was my first book to read by John Connolly.  The characters and setting were intriguing.   I am anxious to read more books in this series.
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I like Charlie Parker and it was interesting to "go back" and see how he became who he is now. Character back story is usually interesting. Thanks John Connolly
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3.5 stars

This is the 18th book in the Charlie Parker series, but it's actually a prequel that introduces us to the former cop turned independent investigator. The book works fine as a standalone.


It's 1997 and NYPD Detective Charlie Parker, who's devastated by the horrific ritualistic murders of his wife and daughter, quits his job. Hearing of other macabre murders from an FBI source, Charlie wanders the country seeking his family's killer. This brings Parker to the downtrodden town of Cargill, Arkansas, where two black girls were tortured and slain.

Unfortunately the county's Chief Investigator, Jurel Cade, is disinclined to look into the homicides. Cade's family, a wealthy clan that owns most of the property in Cargill, is negotiating with Kovas industries to build factories in the area. The plants would bring prosperity and jobs to the region, and Jurel and other residents don't want to scare Kovas off. Thus the first murder is swept under the rug and the second killing is declared an accident, though both victims were stabbed with a knife and and violated with tree branches.

When Parker rolls into town asking questions about the dead girls, he irritates the townsfolk and comes to the attention of Police Chief Evander Griffin, who throws Charlie in jail overnight. Coincidentally another dead black girl is discovered, this time in Griffin's jurisdiction, and the Police Chief DOES plan to investigate. When the Chief learns Parker is a former NYPD detective, he asks the ex-cop to help with the murder inquiry, and Parker (reluctantly) agrees.

Cargill is a typical poverty-stricken, old-fashioned southern town with a strong racial divide, though not much overt animosity between blacks and whites. Still, most of the white population doesn't make a fuss when the murders of black victims go unsolved.

When Parker starts looking into the black girls' homicides, the Cade family, which has a LOT to lose, takes exception....and one of them hires thugs to beat Parker to a pulp. Charlie hears about this plan and phones his acquaintances Louis and Angel, who hustle down to Cargill to watch his back. What they do when they get there made me smile. 🙂

In addition to being plagued by a serial killer, Cargill has other problems. The abutting Ouachita Forest is home to meth labs, which spawns an entire criminal industry; the negotiator from Kovas who flies into Cargill periodically is corrupt; and Pappy Cade (Jurel's father) bribes, threatens, cheats, and strongarms the locals to acquire their land. The criminal elements also employ sadistic enforcers, who just add to Cargill's woes.

The story has a large cast of characters, including a troubled preacher; a sociopathic pedophile; a venal businessman; a haughty woman; and other folks I wouldn't want to meet. The novel is almost a sociological study of a poor town run by a heartless. greedy, self-serving family.

Unlike other Charlie Parker novels, this one has almost no supernatural elements, as Charlie (apparently) hasn't plugged into his paranormal abilities yet.

I liked seeing Parker at the beginning of his private detective odyssey, and his early association with Louis and Angel. A good addition to the series.

Thanks to Netgalley, the author (John Connolly), and the publisher (Atria/Emily Bestler Books) for a copy of the book.
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Perfect entry to this long running series.  Connolly has brought the reader into an earlier adventure of Charlie Parker taking place after the death of his wife and child, but before the supernatural agents of darkness have come into his life.  A horrific murder in Arkansas pulls the tortured former NYPD detective into a world of greed and depravity and death.  Much more a standard thriller the future entries in the series, Connolly fills the pages with well drawn, distinctive characters that land fully formed and the reader will remember.  There are no throw away characters, and for fans of the series Angel and Louis make a welcome  appearance.  In all this is a well structured, satisfying thriller.  Readers will not be disappointed..
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The Dirty South is a step backwards--timewise, anyway. Charlie Parker is chasing leads, looking for the monster who killed his wife and daughter. One of those leads takes him to Arkansas, where someone is killing young women. Brutally. The murders are being kept under wraps--as much as possible--in an effort to court a large corporation that's thinking of moving in to save this town.
It's soon evident that this killer isn't the man Parker is after, but he stays on anyway to help authorities catch whoever is responsible. At this point it turns into a fairly straightforward murder mystery, with not much that makes this the supernatural Parker books we expect. Instead we're able to revisit the Parker who was still in the depths of his mourning. He's broken. Lost. And only beginning to be the strong person we've come to know and love.

None of this is to say it was bad. The story and characters were strong. The mystery kept me guessing. It just felt like Connolly hitting the pause button in a series that I'm READY to see move forward. But I don't begrudge him this detour. And I'll happily devour the next book, just as I have the others.
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This is my first Charlie Parker book, but I can promise it won’t be my last. I can’t believe John Connolly has written so many about this detective and I haven’t crossed paths the series. Although this is #18, I thoroughly enjoyed it as a stand-alone novel. This is a prequel to the series, attempting to lay the groundwork for Charlie Parker’s character. He doesn’t say much, but he speaks volumes. He doesn’t joke around but he’s got an extremely dry wit. He may not be the one to suggest the right idea, but he knows the questions to ask in order to get there.
The setting is a small town in Arkansas with the same general make-up as most small southern towns. There’s a very powerful minority ruling over the remaining townsfolk. In this case, it’s the Cades that control the puppet strings- a rich father and his three troubling children. There have been two; maybe three related murders of young women but the Cades want to keep the news away from a huge investment moving into the area. Race plays a huge role; the victims are black and the undertone of the town is that something would have been done much sooner if they had been white.
Charlie doesn’t see the color of their skin, though. He sees the pattern of the crimes. The crimes themselves are not for the weak. The novel is graphic in describing the murders. The characters are well-written; I could feel compassion or contempt for them in a relatable manner. The pace of the story was good and the plot makes sense. This is a not-too-quick fiction crime read that gave me a break from the real world.
Thanks to NetGalley and Atria for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Many thanks to John Connolly, Atria Books, and Netgalley, for providing me with an advance digital copy of The Dirty South in exchange for an honest review.

This was an excellently executed crime novel, written with Connolly’s usual flare.  I very much enjoyed this prequel  —  it was almost an origin story of the iconic Charlie Parker.  It was an absorbing read, though the subject matter is quite disturbing.  Highly recommended for fans of literary crime fiction in general and of Charlie Parker novels in particular.
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Published by Atria/Emily Bestler Books on November 3, 2020

The Dirty South goes back in time to tell the story of Charlie Parker’s first investigation of a homicide after the death of his wife and daughter. Series readers know that Parker’s wife and daughter were murdered, that Parker quit his job as a New York homicide detective to pursue their killer, and that he was eventually successful. When The Dirty South takes place, Parker has only recently started looking into other killings to see if he can find a pattern that will lead him to his family’s killer. That investigation brings him to a small town in Arkansas.

The Cade family owns a good bit of land in Burdon County. Nothing in Burdon County is worth much, but a company called Kovacs is debating the merits of building a new plant in Burdon County rather than a competing site in Texas. The plant would bring much needed employment to a dirt-poor community. The Cade family is doing its best to seal the deal, which means sweeping away any dirt that might discourage Kovacs from building on land owned by the Cades. One of the sweepers is Jurel Cade, who happens to be a deputy sheriff. Jurel has a brother, a sister, and a father who, even more than Jurel, are varying shades of evil.

Among the secrets that the Cades have an incentive to conceal are three murders of young women. The presence of a serial killer might discourage Kovacs from investing in the county. The most recent murder comes to light when Tilon Ward finds Donna Lee Kernigan’s young body in a ditch. Ward’s distress is amplified by the fact that he was giving Donna Lee money in exchange for sex. Ward earns a living cooking meth and was supplying Donna Lee’s mother so that she would look the other way.

Parker is in town taking a look at the two earlier killings, including one that is fairly recent, to decide whether they shed light on the murders of his wife and daughter. They don’t, but his curiosity earns him a night in jail. Donna’s killing takes place while Parker is locked up. When the police chief discovers that Parker is a former New York City homicide detective, he asks Parker for help. The chief knows that giving the investigation to the deputy sheriff will lead to its burial, lest it disturb the decisionmakers at Kovacs.

Parker’s investigation brings him into contact with a number of corrupt individuals, including several suspects who might have committed one or all of the murders. One of the suspects has been missing and presumed dead for about five years. Others include a bartender, a reverend with aspirations for a bigger church, Tilon Ward and the people for whom he cooks meth, and locals with a grudge against the Cades who might want to scuttle the Kovacs deal. All the suspects give the reader a chance to ponder clues and to view the story as a whodunit.

Yet Connolly uses mysteries as a springboard to explore evil as it coincides with human nature. Part of that exploration involves the question of what makes a killer kill. The Dirty South makes the point that monsters often contribute to their own creation, although every monster is shaped by other monsters.

The Dirty South also examines a more encompassing evil. While Burdon County residents might be uncomfortable with the knowledge that a serial killer may be preying on local women, the victims have been black and everyone in the county is likely to benefit from the Kovacs plant, so the business community — and even the state government — has no interest in making waves. A “see no evil” attitude elevates corruption and self-interest above the community’s interest in protecting its most vulnerable members from harm.

Many Charlie Parker novels are grounded in the supernatural. Apart from Parker having a conversation with the ghost of his daughter, the supernatural is only hinted at in this novel, largely by a character who believes the county’s land was poisoned by bad blood in an earlier century.

Depth of characterization and striking prose always characterize Connolly’s fiction. I would say The Dirty South is one of Connolly’s better novels except that Connolly is such a consistent writer that every novel is at the same high level. Instead, I’ll say that The Dirty South is one of the better novels of 2020 for thriller fans to enjoy.

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I’ve read other books in the series-this is really a prequel rather than a sequel i. e. how he “became Charlie Parker”. The setting is Arkansas with Bill Clinton as president. A good portion of the book is devoted to the workings of Cargill-a typical small southern town intent on its reputation to attract big business and bring wealth to the town. I thought the book slow-as much a sociological treatise as a mystery but in looking back enjoyed it.
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Thanks Netgalley for allowing me to read this book. Charlie Parwho used to be a new york city detective  is trying the find the man who murdered his family   He drives to Arkansas where he is arrested and put in jail for not answering their questions. This book had many twists and turns.
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I've enjoyed several books in the Charlie Parker series starting somewhere in the middle, but I recently made a point of reading book one, Every Dead Thing. This latest book is called a 'prequel' but it actually slots into the middle of that first story. It begins after the brutal murders of Charlie's wife and child but before he reaches New Orleans in his search for the killer. Someone has given him several tips about apparent serial murders that he wants to check out. 

As the story begins, he has stopped in Cargill, Arkansas, where two young black women have been murdered in a ritualistic manner. Right off the bat, Charlie irritates the chief of police by not answering his questions and gets himself thrown in jail. And while he's incarcerated, another girl is found murdered in the same manner. As soon as the police learn that Charlie is an ex-NYPD detective, they wonder, could he stick around and help them solve this crime? For a small town, there's a lot going on behind the scenes, much that Charlie as an outsider can't quite comprehend but he does understand human nature...

Connolly is a master of character development and description of scene. For the first time, I noticed a resemblance between Charlie Parker and another favorite character in a thriller series, Jack Reacher. 
But Charlie isn't quite as physical and relies on his friends, Angel and Louis in some fixes, whereas Jack is strictly a loner. This is a great addition to the series; it keeps you guessing till the end. 

I received an arc of this new thriller from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks!
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Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the eARC of this title.
I've not read a lot of the Charlie Parker books but this book has provided a great introduction to the man and the series. It works just fine as a standalone.
The characters are beautifully developed. I want to read on to better understand them.
Not a full moment.
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