Connolly’s atmospheric novel begins with violence. The howls of a starving, lone wolf set the stage for private investigator Charlie Parker’s foray into the town of Prosperous, Maine, a place mired in the ways of the old world while straddling the boundaries of a country facing economic hardships. Charlie has endured great losses in his life and seen much of the true nature of man. With few selected, trustworthy associates, Charlie seeks to obliterate certain dangerous individuals and the damage they leave in their wake—currently a longtime foe, the Collector. Parker is generally fearless but never careless. He has nothing to lose.
Jude, a homeless man, has been searching desperately for his daughter, Annie Broyer, a girl often as lost as her father but recently sober and hoping to change the direction of her life. A now-cold trail led Jude to Prosperous. Before Jude can contact Charlie Parker and offer him what little he has to search for Annie, Jude is found hanging in a presumed suicide. After a few interviews with Jude’s cronies, Parker isn’t so sure, willing to inquire further into the man’s curious death and the fate of his daughter. Though much of the country is in economic distress, Prosperous seems to have weathered the storm. The community depends on an elected board of selectmen to guide them in every affair, a homogenous, nicer-than-average place where generations have raised their children, most living in comfort.
Prosperous has been an insular community since its inception in the 17th century. The centerpiece of the town is a church transported from Northumbria, England, in 1703 and rebuilt stone by stone: The Blessed Chapel of the Congregation of Adam Before Eve and Eve Before Adam. Though the residents of Prosperous ostensibly worship at the other denominations available, the chapel holds the true beliefs of the founders, a way of living founded on ancient beliefs when paganism was being usurped by Christianity. Following the tenets of Prosperous has kept the inhabitants safe if constrained, a fair trade-off for most in uncertain times. The god of Prosperous is, nevertheless, a hungry god.
The walls around Prosperous are built of consensus, the self-contained community accepting the guidance of a council built on generations of family connections. But the outside world is encroaching, first by the homeless Jude, then in the person of the more formidable Charlie Parker, with his incessant questions about the missing girl. It is a case of the Old World versus the New, though Parker is certainly an old soul who sees beyond the generations of service, the rationalizations meant to cover the sins of men against their own.
Connolly’s writing is seductive, conferring an eerie power to a mystery steeped in the superstitions of history, a perfect blend of the dichotomies of the world we live in, both façade and reality, good and evil, the contrast between a functioning society and the masses of homeless who wander the streets of cities, an environment with its own hierarchy of life and death. The characters in Prosperous possess their own eccentric identities, from Chief Lucas Moreland to Warraner, the church’s pastor, and the powerful albeit elderly selectmen. They are in sharp contrast to Charlie’s loyal soldiers, Louis and Angel, or Ronald Straydeer—or the lone wolf prowling the outskirts of Prosperous, ravaged by hunger yet cautious, watching the first feints of the inevitable battle between adversaries, a collision as old as mankind, one world leaking into another.
Connolly’s thoughtful prose is extraordinary, insightful, and deeply contemplative of the nature of man and accepting of human flaws, if weary beyond imagination. This is more than a mystery: a journey, an exploration of men and their gods, a contemplation of the human condition.