Reading Group Guide
THE BLACK ANGEL by John Connolly
ISBN # 0-7434-8786-9
THE BLACK ANGEL begins with the disappearance of a young prostitute from one of New York City's seamiest neighborhoods. Like so many tormented souls before her, the girl's mother is inevitably drawn to Charlie Parker's doorstep desperate for redemption and revenge. Despite the danger that his chosen profession imposes on his wife and newborn daughter, Parker knows that the woman and her troubles cannot be ignored. As always, he is driven as much by the evil that simmers in the hidden honeycomb world as he is by the ties of friendship and blood.
As Parker gets closer to the girl's captors, he discovers that her disappearance is linked to a church of bones in Eastern Europe, to the slaughter at a French monastery in 1944, and to the myth of an object known as the Black Angel -- an object considered by evil men to be beyond priceless. But the Black Angel is not a legend. It is real. It lives. It dreams. And the mystery of its existence may contain the secret of Parker's own origins.
Reading Group Discussion
1. In the prologue of this novel, we learn the origins of the Believers and the Black Angels. How does the story of Ashmael and Immael compare to certain biblical stories? What is the significance of the grapnel, the symbol used by the Believers to identify each other?
2. In Chapter Two, Charlie Parker remarks, "The past is waiting for me, a monster of my own creation. The past is waiting for us all." How does this ominous quote relate to his own life? Why are his dead wife and child appearing to him?
3. Obligation and responsibility are prevalent themes in THE BLACK ANGEL. Why does Louis feel obligated to help Martha find her missing daughter, Alice? Why does Charlie feel indebted to Louis? Why does Rachel view the mere presence of Angel and Louis at the christening as a threat?
4. The story flashes back to a monastery in Sedlac, Bohemia in 1421 and we learn of its "most famed treasure, a monstrance made from gold-plated silver." How do the sections in the past compare to the modern-day ones? What is the unifying theme?
5. What is the significance of the sculpture they unearth in Garcia's apartment? Charles Neddo tells Parker "The very worstŠare in Juarez." How does the city of Juarez, Mexico figure into this story?
6. In Chapter Twelve, we meet World War II veterans Larry Crane and Mark Hall and learn of their connection to The Black Angel. Hall is plagued with guilt over their actions at Fontfroide in France during the war. Why then does he eliminate Crane so quickly?
7. Charlie Parker's father was a sheriff's deputy until "a bad case poisoned him, taking hold of his conscience and tormenting it so that he had no rest from the thoughts that pursued him." How is Parker like his father? How is he different? How does his father's past figure into the story?
8. When Brightwell confronts Parker he utters the word "found." What does this mean? Why does he literally take the life-breath from his victims? How does Brightwell play upon Parker's guilt in an attempt to get him to succumb?
9. Why does Louis blame Parker for what happened to Alice? Do you think he was justified to feel that way? How did this situation affect the relationship between Angel and Louis?
10. Section IV leads off with the Michael Collins quote: "I tell them there is no forgiveness, and yet, there is always forgiveness." How does the concept of forgiveness figure into this story? Who is in most need of forgiveness?
11. Duality plays a huge part in THE BLACK ANGEL; for example, good & evil, heaven and hell. What are some other examples from the story? What do you think is the most important theme of this novel?
12. THE BLACK ANGEL is the fifth Charlie Parker novel. Have you read any others in this series? If not, did this novel make you want to go back and read the others?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Before your meeting, research the ossuary at Sedlec, which is prominently featured in THE BLACK ANGEL, at http://www.kostnice.cz/. Add this to your discussion, pointing out information that struck you as most interesting. How different are the actual pictures of the ossuary from what you'd pictured? Do you think the author did a good job of describing them?
2. If you decide to continue reading books in the Charlie Parker series, choose one member of your group to bring a journal to each discussion so that you can take notes comparing and contrasting your group's input and the overall feeling everyone had about each of the books.
3. Visit the author's own website at http://www.johnconnollybooks.com/ to learn more about John Connolly, THE BLACK ANGEL, and other titles in the Charlie Parker series.