Song of Shadows, Michael Connelly, author, Jeff Harding, narrator
A small town in Maine, Boreas, recently acquired some new residents on their beachfront. The Parkers and the Winters are new neighbors. Ruth Winters is a single mom with a young daughter, Amanda. They both used to live with Ruth’s mother, Isha, but they had some kind of a falling out and moved away from Pirna, where Isha still lived. Charlie Parker is divorced. His young daughter, Samantha, visits him. He had recently sustained devastating injuries and had moved, temporarily, to this small town to recuperate. Through the children, they make a brief, somewhat troubled acquaintance. When the body of a man washes up on the beach, not far from their homes, an investigation ensues which draws both of them into its snare with devastating consequences.
What seems to begin as a strange and confusing murder mystery, soon resolves itself into an intense effort to find Nazi war criminals. Helped by pro-Nazi sympathizers, after the war, these former Nazis have hidden in plain sight in the United States for decades. With their identities and even their physical appearance altered, they remained undiscovered, living far different, often upstanding lives. Soon, even they forgot who they really were, but their hateful deeds could never be forgotten or dismissed, especially by those who continued to search for them.
As more and more bodies turned up, seemingly unrelated to each other, in a place where murder rarely occurred, investigators began to wonder if these murders were not random acts at all, but were perhaps all connected by some thread that might link the past with the present. As Charlie Parker, a former detective and private investigator, who thwarted his own death miraculously by being resuscitated a number of times after dying, grows more and more involved in the investigation of these bizarre and violent murders, actually witnessing some of them, he also becomes a suspect. More strangely, as the story plays out, he is visited by visions of his own dead daughter, Jennifer, while his remaining living daughter, Samantha, is also experiencing visions of her own. Amanda Winters, as well, is having odd nightmares about Jennifer. The paranormal overlay in the story is not as effective as it could be as it barely seems credible at times, but it makes for an interesting diversion and creates the plot of future books in this series.
As the reader is drawn further and further into this tangled mystery, what once seemed confusing and pointless takes shape and grows engaging, drawing the reader further and further into the web of suspense as more and more of the sadistic nature of the murders and the vicious torture that is inflicted on the victims is discovered. They seem to have no rhyme or reason and no relationship to each other, except in their brutality, and also, in the fact that they are occurring in a place that rarely witnessed such crimes. Why the sudden appearance of so much violence in this previously very quiet small town?
There are many sub themes in this story. Many of the characters seem to enter and leave without reason, perhaps existing solely to move the story along, however, they all cleverly connect, in the end, as the investigation into Nazi war crimes and criminals broadens. It is a convoluted path and sometimes it gets tedious with details, but the loose ends all really do get tied up neatly. At one point, I thought that each sub theme could have been developed into a good story on its own, but joining them was a clever and creative, monumental task that finally did work out well.
The back story about a concentration camp during World War II, where supposedly all sorts of atrocities were carried out, is interesting, although this is fiction and the suppositions presented are not given as fact, but more as representations of what might have occurred during that historic time of cruelty, destruction and genocide. The theme of anti-Semitism is developed well, without becoming cloying; it is rather more informational and seems authentic, representing the tenor of the times in Europe, during the war, and the nature of the beasts who escaped afterwards.