I love it when a plan comes together.
This of course meant that when I got home I could settle on the sofa with John Connolly’s latest novel, The Whisperers which has been burning a hole in the corner of my eye ever since it arrived from those lovely people at Hodder.
Can I just say, the man is class? If you haven’t read him and you’re a fan of thriller novels WHERE THE FECK HAVE YOU BEEN?
The father of an Iraq war veteran asks Charlie Parker to find out why his son committed suicide. The soldier was the 3rd in a small group of army colleagues who had done so. Charlie discovers that the group were smuggling antiques (circa 2500BC) from an Iraqi museum. Among them is a gold box with a complicated locking system. Locks that were designed to hold something mysterious. Something that shifts, writhes and pushes against the walls of the box. Something that whispers.
I just LOVE the way Connolly brings the supernatural into the thriller genre. He does this with a suggestion of demonic forces and with the creation of really, really bad men. The kind of men we spook our children with, while scaring ourselves.
The better novels have elements other than a straightforward narrative and clever man that he is, JC uses The Whisperers to discuss the effect of war on soldiers. Being a very, very clever man he does this without lecturing. We get the information in digestible chunks that makes us assimilate the detail, wonder at how people could be treated in such a way, but never at any time are we at a remove from the story.
As long as man has fought combat stress has been with us. In World War1 it was called Shell Shock. In WW2, it was “battle fatigue”. Now we call it Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
There are figures that show as many soldiers are dying when they return from service as there are while on active duty. Unable to process the stresses of combat they take the ultimate way out. Also, significant numbers of veterans end up on the street or in jail. Here in the UK, ex-servicemen are by far the largest occupational group in prison.
You can argue about the futility of war, the waste of lives and the rights and wrongs of the combat in Iraq and Afghanistan – and being a pacifist I would probably agree with you... but the fact of the matter is that these men and women are being sent out to battle and then on their return to “normal” society are being abandoned by the very people who asked them to put their life on the line. They deserve much, much better.
The decision makers should hang their collective heads in shame.
(BTW, my review of the book will be posted on Crimesquad.com shortly. I’m sure you can guess it’s going to be favourable eh?)