Night Music, by John Connolly / *****

imageIf you’ve ever heard me talk about books before, chances are I’ve brought up and/or tried to make you read something by John Connolly. I’ve been banging the drum for Connolly since reading his debut novel, Every Dead Thing, and my love and admiration for his writing has only grown over the years. His Charlie Parker series is one of the best thriller series going today, blending horror and crime together into something that manages to be terrifying, exciting, and profound all at the same time. The Samuel Johnson trilogy is an absolute joy, delivering a hilarious tale about the gates of Hell and quantum physics that any adult would love and yet still feels perfect for its young audience. And now there’s Night Music, Connolly’s second collection of short fiction, and further testament to his astonishing writing, range, and talent. Trying to narrow down Night Music to a single genre is an exercise in futility, but that’s half of the joy. If you want horror, it’s undeniably on display. “On The Anatomization of an Unknown Man (1637) by Frans Mier” ranks as one of my all-time favorite short stories, slowly peeling back layers of reality until you realize just what a nightmarish story you’re really in. And Connolly’s earlier Kindle single, the terrifying “The Wanderer in Unknown Realms,” becomes part of a five story cycle that all combine to create a sense that there’s a world beyond us at all times – and it’s not a pleasant one. So, yes, there’s horror. But there’s also stories where the supernatural is just a starting point for something more subtle, and even beautiful, as in the 300-word “A Dream of Winter” or the melancholy “A Haunting.” Meanwhile, bibliophiles will adore the quietly whimsical “The Caxton Private Lending Library and Book Depository,” which finds a man investigating what appears to be the suicide of a character from a famous Russian tragedy. And the follow up to that story, “Holmes on the Range,” shows off Connolly’s gift for comedy, diving into the world of Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous creation with affectionate ribbing. And the whole collection culminates in the personal essay “I Live Here,” wherein Connolly discusses his inspirations both literary and cinematic, all in his wonderful digressive style, before tying it all together with a strange final anecdote. All in all, it’s a flawless collection from one of the best – and most underrated – craftsmen working today. It’s a reminder that “genre fiction” doesn’t automatically mean “bad writing,” no matter what snobs will tell you, and that sometimes the joy comes from realizing that genre boundaries are all the more interesting when they’re broken and disregarded. In short, I loved this collection; I can’t recommend it enough, and my only regret is that I’m out of Connolly to read until his next book arrives. 5


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