Every Dead Thing - John Connolly I am a dilettante when it comes to my tastes. I like to read here and there, delve into some genres deeply, take a break with a shallow dip in another genre, and just in general approach literature like it is a buffet of options. It keeps things interesting, but at times I wonder if it means I am losing the ability to be truly critical when it comes to such things as ‘clichés of the genre’. I’m not an expert in any genre, so things that seem fresh and fascinating to me may come across as clichéd and wearying to others.

For example, Every Dead Thing. Is it a cliché to have a detective so tormented by his past? To have that past be so carefully described, the tragedy be so disturbing and overpowering, that the reader still thinks of it while reading of perhaps unrelated mysteries? The hero, Charlie Parker, is so tormented that his story is as equally compelling as the plot of the actual mystery.

Is it a cliché to have settings rendered so richly? The atmosphere in this novel is so thick, so rich, so substantial, that you can cut a piece out of it and eat it. It is a very impressive achievement, particularly when considering that the author hails from Ireland while the action of the novel takes place mainly in the American South. Connolly’s descriptive abilities and his skill at conveying exactly how a place looks and feels are the abilities of both an expert journalist and a passionate historian.

Is it a cliché to have supporting characters that are highly idiosyncratic yet totally sympathetic, who just pop off the page whenever they appear? The gay couple, one a killer and the other a thief, are just such supporting characters. They are not easy caricatures built solely to add color and spice or to amuse the reader; they are fully flesh-and-blood, characters who are intriguing yet make perfect sense, and who demand their own novel. Which apparently they have.

Is it a cliché to have a detective novel that includes the supernatural to such a strong degree that at times the reader feels they are reading something that is much more ambiguous, much more rooted in primal fears and unearthly mysteries than a standard police procedural? Is it a cliché to have a story that solves a finite mystery but leaves the greater mysteries entirely unsolved? Certainly this is common enough in mainstream literary fiction, but how often does it happen in the detective genre? That is truly what sets this novel apart for me. The mystery is solved, yes. But the world the protagonist lives in is still the greatest and most troubling mystery of all.