At first, I thought The Dirty South was going to be one of those books I needed to slow down and sip like fine brandy while the ghosts of Shakespeare, Raymond Chandler, and yes, even Agatha Christie, chilled my back. I was wrong. Yes, one can make a case that those authors’ influence can be felt in these pages, but only because excellent writing is timeless, a solid plot will out, and a great mystery always follows the rules.

The Dirty South is all John Connolly. It is a fast-paced ride through a violent small southern town in 1997 where three women have been found dead in what appears to be identical ritualistic murders.

The revelation of so many deaths is not in the best interests at the current time, financially, for most of the pockets in Burdon county, including the wealthy Cade family. Certain wealthy investors are about to decide whether to put their money into Burdon County or to take it somewhere else. The County Sheriff is of those Cades, and the local Chief of Police is not.

Meanwhile, Charlie Parker was drifting like a ghost from rumor to rumor, looking for the man who had murdered his wife and daughter. The symbolic nature of the three women’s murders brought Parker into town. A stranger, unwilling to answer questions, he ended up in the local jail.

Suddenly, wow, there came a place where it seemed as if the pages were greased, and I was on the slide. Make sure you’ve cleared your decks first; if you’re like me, you won’t be able to stop reading when you reach that point. John Connolly knows how to lead you down a gentle garden path only to throw you on a twisty rollercoaster to an exciting end.

There was at least one tease that rippled through the book, an unanswered question like a short tantalizing refrain. Since it didn’t pertain specifically to the mystery in this book, I didn’t mind it being left open, but I’ll go to the rest of John Connolly’s books in a search to find the answer. And I understand, even then, my quest may be in vain. And that will be okay with me.

FIVE STARS. Recommended!

Available November 3, 2020. The publisher provided my ARC via #NetGalley in exchange for this honest review.