A Time of Torment (Charlie Parker Series #14)

A Time of Torment (Charlie Parker Series #14)

by John Connolly


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#1 internationally bestselling author John Connolly delivers a masterful combination of “the hard-boiled with the supernatural” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) with this return of dangerous and driven private investigator Charlie Parker as he battles an old evil that haunts a strange and isolated community.

Jerome Burnel was once a hero. He intervened to prevent multiple killings, and in doing so damned himself. His life was torn apart, imprisoned and brutalized.

But in his final days, with the hunters circling, he tells his story to private detective Charlie Parker. He speaks of the girl who was marked for death, but was saved; of the ones who tormented him, and an entity that hides in a ruined stockade.

Parker is not like other men. He died, and was reborn. He is ready to wage war.

Now he will descend upon a strange, isolated community called the Cut, and face down a force of men who rule by terror, intimidation, and murder.

All in the name of the being they serve. All in the name of the Dead King.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501118333
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Publication date: 05/23/2017
Series: Charlie Parker Series , #14
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 259,766
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

John Connolly is the author of the Charlie Parker series of thrillers, the supernatural collection Nocturnes, the Samuel Johnson Trilogy for younger readers, and (with Jennifer Ridyard) the Chronicles of the Invaders series. He lives in Dublin, Ireland. For more information, see his website at JohnConnollyBooks.com, or follow him on Twitter @JConnollyBooks.


Dublin, Ireland

Date of Birth:

May 31, 1968

Place of Birth:

Dublin, Ireland


B.A. in English, Trinity College Dublin, 1992; M.A. in Journalism, Dublin City University, 1993

Read an Excerpt

A Time of Torment

  • They’re circling now, then falling, descending in a slow gyre, dropping so gently that their approach can barely be discerned. They are hawks in the form of men, and the one who leads them is a being doubly transformed: lost and found, human and bird; youngest of them, yet strangely old. He has endured, and in this endurance he has been forged anew. He has seen a world beyond this one. He has glimpsed the face of a new god.

    He is at peace with himself, and so he will wage war.

    Faster they come, the spiral narrowing, the three almost as one, their coats mantling in the chill fall air; and not a whisper of their approach, not a passing shadow nor a sparrow startled, only the stillness of a world waiting to be shattered, and the perfect balance of a life, perhaps, to be saved and a life, perhaps, to be ended.

    The clouds part, pierced by a shaft of light that catches them in flight, as though they have attracted, however briefly, the attention of a deity long slumbering but now awake, roused by martial clamor and the raising of armies in the name of the Captain, the One Who Waits Behind the Glass, the God of Wasps.

    And the old deity will set His child against them, and the hawks will follow.

    IT WAS A LONG time since the Gray Man had considered the possibility of being caught, for the Gray Man did not truly exist. He had no physical form. He dwelt alongside another, sharing the same skin, and only at the final breath might there have been a glimpse of the essence of his true nature, although even then he preferred to remain unseen, concealed by darkness. He was not above causing pain, although this was as much a matter of whim as any particular tastes that he might have possessed. A death was only the beginning, which was why he had survived undetected for so long. He could make a kill last for years. Physical pain was finite, for ultimately the body would surrender the soul, but emotional agony was capable of infinite variations, and the subtlest of modifications might release from the wound a new torrent of distress.

    In the persona that he presented to the world, the Gray Man was a reverse chameleon. His name was Roger Ormsby, and he was small, colorful, and greatly liked. He was in his early sixties, with an impish humor. His hair and beard were white, but neatly trimmed. He proudly carried before him his little potbelly, like a happily expectant mother demonstrating the pleasure she takes in her burden. He favored red suspenders and vests of unusual design. He wore tweed in winter and linen in summer, preferring creams and tans but offsetting them with tastefully bright ties and handkerchiefs. He could play the piano, and waltz and two-step with ease, but inside Ormsby was a foul thing animating him as a puppeteer works a marionette, and only an expert might have detected the sterility of his renditions of beloved classics as his fingers moved across the keys, or the joyless precision of every move he made on a dance floor.

    Ormsby did not discuss politics or religion. He took only frivolous subjects seriously, and as a consequence was much valued as a dinner guest. He was a happy widower, faithful to the memory of his departed wife to the extent that he would do no more than flirt with the less lonely widows of Champaign, Illinois, but not so in love with the ghost of his departed spouse as to allow the loss of her to cloud his spirit or the spirits of others. He was always in demand as a companion for theater, movies, and the occasional light opera, and the absence of a sexual component to his relationships meant that he moved in and out of social situations with ease. He was a Friend of the Library, a member of the Audubon Society, a regular fixture at lectures on local history, and a generous—but not overgenerous—donor to good causes. True, there were some who disliked him, for no man can be loved by all, but in general such naysayers were regarded by the majority as willfully ornery, unable to accept that someone might simply be a force for contentment in the world.

    And so Roger Ormsby bobbed through life in his vibrant plumage, advertising his presence, hiding nothing, but when he closed his front door behind him the artificial light in his eyes was suffocated, and the face of the Gray Man was pendent like a dead moon in the blackness of his pupils.

    This is what Roger Ormsby did—or, if you wish, what the Gray Man did, for they were two aspects of the same entity, like a coat and its lining. He typically targeted his victims carefully, spending months in preparation. He had been known to engage in crimes of opportunity, but they were riskier now than they once were, because cameras were everywhere. In addition, it was difficult to gauge just what one might be appropriating in such a situation, for Ormsby required a very particular set of social circumstances from his victims. They couldn’t be loners, isolated from their families and friends. He did not desire discards. The more beloved they were, the better. He wanted offspring who were cherished. He wanted teenagers from happy homes. He wanted good mothers of children beyond the age of infancy. He wanted emotional engagement.

    He wanted many lives that he could slowly and painstakingly destroy over a period of years, even decades.

    Ormsby made people disappear, then watched as those who loved them were left to wonder at their fate. He understood the half-life of hope: it is not despair that destroys us, but its opposite. Hope is the winding, despair the unwinding. Despair brings with it the possibility of an ending. Taken to the extreme, its logical conclusion is death. But hope sustains. It can be exploited.

    Ormsby’s actions had caused some to take their own lives, but he considered this a failure, both on his own part and theirs. The ones he killed were merely the first victims, and also the least interesting to him. He liked to watch those who remained as they tried to cope with what had been visited upon them. He knew that they would wake each morning and briefly forget what they had lost: a mother, a son, a daughter. (Ormsby avoided taking adult men. He was stronger than he looked, but not so much that he believed he could tackle a grown man, especially not as he grew older.) Then, seconds after waking, they would remember again, and this was where the pleasure lay for Ormsby.

    He was not above goading, reminding, but that was a dangerous business. He had sent items to relatives in the mail—a necklace, a watch, a child’s shoe—to enjoy the commotion that followed. He had forced children that he had taken to write letters to their mothers and fathers, informing them that they were in good health and being looked after. (Adults, too, might be persuaded to write similar missives, but only under threat of physical harm.) He might wait years before sending such notes, depending on the age of the child and the reaction of the parents. He dropped the letters in mailboxes far from home, often when he was on vacation, and always ensured that he was not overlooked by cameras.

    The Internet made it easier for him to monitor the progress of his real victims, but Ormsby was wary of leaving an electronic trail. He concealed his searches amid random examinations of newspapers and magazines, often in public libraries or the kind of cybercafes frequented by immigrants. He did not attend public gatherings for the disappeared, or church services at which the congregation prayed for their safe return, because he believed the authorities monitored such events. It was usually enough for Ormsby to know that the suffering he had inflicted continued unabated. If nothing else, the Gray Man had a vivid imagination. This was how Ormsby could survive for so long without killing: as the years went by, so too his store of victims increased. He could dip in and out of destroyed lives. He was an emotional vampire.

    Now, as he drove home, he thought that this metaphor had a pleasing precision under the circumstances. He recalled a scene from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, in which the Count returns to his castle and throws to his three vampire brides an infant contained in a sack. At that moment, the trunk of Ormsby’s car also contained a child in a sack. Her name was Charlotte Littleton. She was nine years old, and represented one of his rare crimes of opportunity: a child playing with a ball as the afternoon sunlight died, an open gate, the ball drifting into an empty street of big houses set back from the road . . .

    Good fortune: God—if He existed—finding His attention briefly distracted.

    And inside, the Gray Man danced.

  • Customer Reviews

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    A Time of Torment (Charlie Parker Series #14) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
    Anonymous 6 months ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Interesting topic.
    Cambo More than 1 year ago
    First, I would like to express my thanks to Atria Books/NetGalley and the author, who provided a digital copy in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. I have long been a fan of John Connolly and his Charlie Parker, Private Investigator series, and I cannot really explain why. There are certain elements of the series that I am not too fond of, namely, the darkness of humanity and mild paranormal occurrences that are a constant in Charlie Parker’s life and cases. However, Connolly uncannily turns this negative into a positive in his storyline and plots and continually produces page-turner detective horror thrillers. A Time of Torment, Connolly’s 14th Charlie Parker novel, continues the tradition and is an outstanding novel. While, I have not read all of the Charlie Parker novels, this one is just like the others that I have read - it totally captivates me and will not hardly let me go. The paranormal is very mild, almost self-perceived by the characters as in a cult. A Time of Torment begins with Parker coming off severe wounds in which he briefly died, but was brought back to life in the last novel. He is almost completely healed, but boredom brings him back to work. Jerome Burnel, a seemingly unremarkable character, comes to Parker seeking his services. Burnel does not expect much, does not have much money, but needs issues resolved before, or after, he is killed. He allows Parker free access to his remains money through an attorney. Parker is taken back as Burnel continues. It seems that this average Joe, Burnel is recently released from prison and deeply scarred from the experience. Burnel was a salesman, and he was on the road and made a brief stop. Two men came in apparently with robbery the motive. The situation heightened and escalated, and Burnel, an innocent bystander, shot and killed both of the men. The men were residents of a community known as “The Cut” that was left alone for decades. Burnel became an unwilling hero. This was not his style. Later, he was set-up on something that he would never engage. He had no idea that this was happening to him. He was prosecuted and sent to prison. While in prison, he was constantly tormented and abused. During one of these incidents someone mentioned that this was for “The Dead King.” Burnel wants to know who or what is “The Dead King” and what is the involvement. And, why him? Who did he offend this badly? A Time of Torment does include violence, though not as much as most Parker novels that I have read. It is a bit cultish, but Connolly manages this very well. Connolly is outstanding at his character creation and development. He does have some interesting characters from top to bottom. He leads the reader along very impressively, with his plot development and scene description. Of course, Angel and Louis are back, but they and Parker take on less of a role than they do in other Parker novels. I am very glad that I read A Time of Torment, and I would have no problem recommending it to my friends that are a fan of PI thrillers. The horror is very mild. I will be reading more of the Charlie Parker series. It is nice to read a series that does not necessarily have to be read in order. A Time of Torment earns a solid 4-star rating from this reader.
    Maari More than 1 year ago
    I have visited the Twilight Zone. Supernatural, suspense, dark, horror, psychological-thriller. This book is almost every genre out there! How did I not know about Mr. Connolly?!? WOW!! This book has a deep, complex story line.. there is no lack of creativity between the pages! I do feel as if I am missing so much by starting on this book.. I wish that I had started from the beginning of this series. If I had known, perhaps I would have. There are plenty of details to understand what is going on, but still, I need more! I need enough that I will be going back and visiting Parker and his daughters. This book has dark themes, there is violence, and there is carnage. So recommended to anyone who enjoys a good paranormal story and isn't bothered by those things.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Qnofdnile More than 1 year ago
    I received an email asking me to review this book. I've heard of this series before but had not read any of the books before. So I thought to myself why not. I normally like to start at the beginning of a series not at the latest installment but here goes. It starts with Roger who believes he has this Grey Man inside him. Makes him do strange/paranormal things. Events happen in Maine but are based from a group in West Virginia. A group that the county they are in, everyone is afraid of them. The group is basically self sufficient and they want to stay that way but if things don't happen they way they want them to happen then people have a way of disappearing. Roger gets Charlie Parker to investigate what is happening to him, The Fallen Idol. It does take him to WV where there are lots of unexpected events to keep you interested in this book. This keeps you riveted, not know what to expect next. I am not into voodoo/paranormal but it still kept my attention until the end. I have a feeling I will be reading more books by John Connolly.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Very disturbing and entertaining book!
    Ratbruce More than 1 year ago
    A well written, well paced thriller that won't disappoint John Connolly's fans or new readers. I count myself among the latter but am transitioning to the former. After reading this Charlie Parker mystery, I'm going to start with the first one and read them all.
    LGHudson More than 1 year ago
    I enjoy reading many different genres. However, I found this book to be far too dark for my personal enjoyment. Also, I have never read any of the other books in this series. After reading other reviews, it is apparent that is important to be very familiar with this series. I rarely ever do not finish a book but I did not get very far into this one because it just didn't appeal to me. I was provided a copy by the publisher and NetGalley for a fair and honest review.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    rfcurious More than 1 year ago
    I like a good detective/murder mystery and this is the best I have read in a while. I was especially impressed with the twist at the end. I did not see that one coming. This book is my introduction to John Connolly and his creation, Charlie Parker. I will definitely be seeking out more.
    ArleneArredondo More than 1 year ago
    The story and the characters are well developed, and as with any Charlie Parker’s book anything is possible. It has a powerful message about abductions and how it shatters the life of those left behind. The evil that lurks behind the façade of a good neighbor, a respectable member of society, and those that show themselves as a dangerous group and are too powerful for anyone to make a stand against them. Parker has regained his strength, and accepts a new job that will take him, Angel and Louis in the search of the Dead King. Note: I received an ARC from the publisher for review purposes and an honest and un-biased opinion.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Heros become tainted, good guys seen as bad. Evil on the rise. Justice comes through mysterious events and champions. Charlie, Louis, Angel, and Jerome lead in this thrilling mystery to The Cut (similar to a land-based Bermuda Triangle)! Dynamic, page turning writing! Haven't read the previous books in the series; happily, didn't need to with this standalone story. But I will read them now! Book free through Netgally for honest review.
    ArizonaJo More than 1 year ago
    A Time of Torment by John Connolly is the 14th book in his Charlie Parker series. I had not read any of the previous books in this series so some of the relationships that were already developed were vague to me. However, the characters are well developed, there was an interesting paranormal element and the plot was fast paced. I would never read this book at night; but I feel that way about most thrillers. I will definitely consider reading this series from the beginning. I was given an ARC from Atria via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
    jayfwms More than 1 year ago
    A story unlike anything you have ever read! The characters come across as real people, but establish their own level of strange. Some characters from early in the book reappear to play a decisive role in the resolution of the plot. A small county in West Virginia is home to a community estranged from the rest of the country and operating under its own rules and leadership. A century or so of inbreeding has produced some interesting people. The community itself is led by a god known as the Dead King whose very existence is an extreme secret. Charlie Parker is caught in the middle as a man bedeviled by this sect seeks his help before vanishing. Many interesting characters and much action keep the book deeply engrossing. The style of writing conveys the message without getting in the way, making it an easy read. It's worth the money.