Saturday, July 07, 2012

The Poet

After reading "The Scarecrow" by Michael Connelly earlier this year I was eager to track down "The Poet" (501 pages). I was finally able to find it on the cheap down at a used bookstore. From Goodreads:

"Jack McEvoy is a Denver crime reporter with the stickiest assignment of his career. His twin brother, homicide detective Sean McEvoy, was found dead in his car from a self-inflicted bullet wound to the head - an Edgar Allen Poe quote smeared on the windshield. Jack is going to write the story. The problem is that Jack doesn't believe that his brother killed himself, and the more information he uncovers, the more it looks like Sean's death was the work of a serial killer. Jack's research turns up similar cases in cities across the country, and within days, he's sucked into an intense FBI investigation of an Internet pedophile who may also be a cop killer nicknamed the Poet. It's only a matter of time before the Poet kills again, and as Jack and the FBI team struggle to stay ahead of him, the killer moves in, dangerously close."

The good:

Since "The Scarecrow" was a sequel of sorts to "The Poet" it was interesting to go back and read about Jack McEvoy's first adventure and see how the traumatic events in the novel landed him in L.A. and his current situation. Though the two novels are separated by eleven years and I read the second book first, this didn't diminish my enjoyment of the story one bit.

Even though Jack's a snake of sorts, being a crime beat reporter, I felt a lot of empathy for his actions even when those actions crossed the line between bringing light on the death of his brother and bringing himself personal glory with a once in a lifetime news story. Jack is pretty much a cynic at heart and I think that before all of his other qualities draws me to his character. Having only read the two novels by Connelly I can't say if all of his characters are rendered this way but I appreciated where Jack was coming from even if is moral compass wasn't always pointing north.

For the most part "The Poet" is a by the numbers mystery/thriller. The first half of the book moves at a sizzling rate, I could hardly put it down, being drawn into the initial investigation. The second half of the book slows down moving the reader through the steps of his and the FBI's investigation. Only toward the very last fifty pages or so does the story really get turned on its head, not once but a couple of times. By the conclusion I was really impressed on where the author ultimately ended up, something refreshing for me considering how many thrillers or mysteries I've read lately.

The bad:

Since the book was published in 1996 there's a lot of outdated technology used by the newspaper and law enforcement agencies during the time. While maybe cutting edge during the time some of it seemed kind of funny to read about at this later date. No cell phones, dial-up modems, hour long information searches, and grossly expensive digital camera technology, not to mention two major print newspapers still being alive in Denver. Appreciate the times we live in folks!

The ugly:

A lot of the subject matter in the book deals with pedophilia, a topic that should always make a reader squeamish.

A terrific novel by a wonderful writer. I enjoyed all 501 pages from beginning to end and really appreciated the curve balls the writer threw at me particularly near the conclusion. Recommended for fans of the genre and to anyone who likes a good read in general. Read "The Poet" and then follow it up with "The Scarecrow!"

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