The Reapers by John Connolly

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The Reapers by John Connolly

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Iain Wear
Reviewed by Iain Wear
Summary: Connolly's basic idea may be nothing especially new, but The Reapers is a gripping read and has enough fresh features to elevate it above the mundane.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 480 Date: May 2008
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
ISBN: 978-0340936658

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It can get a little confusing having novelists with similar names, especially when they're writing in the same genre. Having been a fan of Michael Connelly and his Harry Bosch character for some time, the chance to try John Connolly was one worth taking, especially as I'd heard good things about him.

Louis and Angel are killers for hire, two of a group known as The Reapers. Circumstance once forced them to kill to survive and so they came to the attention of a man called Gabriel who nurtured their talents and gave them work. After years of this, Louis couldn't continue and has become more of a businessman and property owner, although fear of his past career coming back to haunt him makes him careful and secretive.

Unfortunately for Louis, it seems that his fears have been realised. Both his home and his business have been targeted and it seems that the people who want him dead have hired Bliss; another former Reaper and someone who has his own reasons for wanting Louis dead. When Louis and Angel try to find out who is ultimately behind events, the answers aren't as obvious as they first appear.

At first glance, this doesn't sound anything terribly original. Any number of thriller novels and films feature former killers who have given it up, but who are persuaded to return for one last job for some reason. This makes it all the more difficult to impress an audience and even more difficult to find something new to say. In this respect, however, Connolly does very well.

Firstly, he makes a wonderful job of humanising the killers, so much so that you can easily pick out which side you should be rooting for, even in a battle between two sets of assassins. The relationship between the two killers is written in a very similar way to the relationship between Willie and Arno, two mechanics. They frequently bicker like old friends and the couple that they are, which means you're a lot more able to relax around them without just waiting for the next thing to happen.

That said, it isn't often that things aren't happening. Despite much of the novel being taken up with Louis and Angel's back stories, both together and separately, it is still full of action. There are a few parts where the pace is a little slower, particularly at the start where we're just being introduced to the characters, but apart from that Connolly keeps up a pretty high pace and that helps make the story very readable.

Connolly manages to avoid the unexpected, which is another aspect which made The Reapers as enjoyable as it was. Admittedly, the whole basic idea is a bit of a cliché, but within that idea, Connolly has branched out in some unexpected directions. The killing that started Louis on the road to becoming a Reaper was predictable both in target and motivation, but the method came as something of a surprise. Much was true later on in the story, where events were perhaps predictable, but the way they came about wasn't and I found not being able to second guess the course of events quite refreshing in a book of this kind.

If there is one disadvantage to the book from my point of view, it's that it isn't really aimed at newcomers to Connolly. Louis and Angel are treated a little like people you should already know and they discuss former commissions as if the reader should already be aware of the details behind it. When Connolly's signature character Charlie Parker becomes more involved later on, his back story is also referred to briefly, again seeming to assume that the wider details are already known. Whilst this would not be a problem for an existing fan, it did prove a minor distraction for me, wondering what details I might have missed. It is to Connolly's credit, however, that this wonder made me want to read back through his earlier books, rather than annoying me with the lack of details presented here.

What I found was a highly enjoyable book that aside from a couple of minor points, proved to be a quick and easy read. It's simply written, but the nature of the genre and of the characters involved here demands that and this helps keep the pace of the story high and stopped my interest in events from waning at any stage. Admittedly, it's the kind of book that would really only appeal to fans of thriller writing and someone looking for a book to pass the time, but if this is the kind of book you're looking for, I would certainly recommend The Reapers and, to judge from what events Connolly hinted at from his earlier books, the author in general.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals to you then you might also enjoy The Blue Zone by Andrew Gross.

Booklists.jpg The Reapers by John Connolly is in the Top Ten Beach Reads For Boys.

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