The Reapers by John Connolly

(Atria)

John Connolly is easily one of the finest practitioners of the supernatural-tinged mystery story, with a series of books featuring the literally and metaphorically haunted P.I. Charlie Parker. Two of the supporting characters in that series now have a book of their own, The Reapers, and though Parker makes an appearance, actual ghosts do not. The assassin Louis and his partner, Angel, headline a fairly streamlined, muscular novel that's more linear than any of Connolly's previous thrillers, though it's no less psychologically complex. While Connolly's readers have picked up hints about why and how Louis became a killer, this is effectively his origin story.

Connolly can write a crackling action scene and descriptions of mayhem with the best of them, but where his books achieve their artistry is with his fully realized collections of characters. Even those ne'er-do-wells who would be simple cannon fodder in other tales are given weight and shading by Connolly. His ostensible POV character, an aging mechanic named Willie Brew who has business dealings with Louis, is a beautiful and grounding influence on the narrative.

It's intriguing that an Irish writer has become one of the finest practitioners of the American mystery novel, but that's exactly what has happened. Connolly's 10th novel maintains incredibly high standards and finishes as one of his best.