I haven’t done a review in a long time, but I finished The Communion of Saints last night, and I simply had to review it.
But first a little background. Communion is the third novel in the John Ray series that began with Hope Road and continued with Father and Son. My reviews of Hope Road and Father and Son are here and here. It’s been a long time between drinks, but the wait was worth it. Here is the review I just posted on Amazon:
Like ‘Hope Road’ and ‘Father and Son’, the first two John Ray thrillers, The Communion of Saints is that rare beast: a character driven genre novel. And like its predecessors, Communion is brilliant.
The Communion of Saints can be read as a standalone novel because the author weaves enough prior knowledge into the story to make the character and motivation of the protagonist realistic and satisfying. Nevertheless, I highly recommend that you read the earlier novels first.
Why? Because all three novels are character driven thrillers, and it’s the character of John Ray, the protagonist, that sucks you in and keeps you turning the pages.
John Ray is the last surviving member of a crime family. He’s the white sheep, the one that broke away and tried to live a straight life. But it’s hard to remain divorced from your past when you see your brother shot to death in front of your eyes. It’s even harder to stay detached when the Law tries to lay every nasty crime at your door.
After the gruesome death of his father, the old crime boss, John Ray tries to start afresh. He gives his business away and takes a job as a lowly lecturer’s assistant, but he’s shrivelling up inside.
Enter Detective Chief Superintendent Shirley Kirk. She needs John’s help. Or, to be more exact, she needs the help of his historical links to the underworld because someone is making allegations of child abuse against an institution to which they both have ties.
In the process of unravelling truth from lies, John discovers yet more about his own past, none of it good. He also becomes a suspect in two murders, simply because of who he is.
The plot is tight, with no ‘what the…?’ moments, and the prose is elegant, painting a vivid picture of the characters and their world without ever being flowery or pretentious. But the true joy of Communion is in the characters. Not even the walk on/walk off characters are two dimensional. All of them possess a vitality that makes them feel real, no matter how minor.
As for John Ray and Shirley Kirk, they’re real people to me. I care about them. I’d like to meet them, talk to them, spend time with them. More importantly, they are people I will not forget.
I cannot think of greater praise for an author’s work.
Something I didn’t write in the review was that I wondered whether I’d still have a wee bit of a crush on the charming rogue, John Ray. The answer is yes. He’s still a bad boy with heart, and we know how women like them. 😀