Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, ingenious twisty mystery
Cons: The profile/character of the villain is a cliché
The Bottom Line:
Suicide it’s not
Starts us on fun mystery
With clichéd villain
Jack is on the Trail of a Well Disguised Serial Killer
Even before I started reading any of Michael Connelly’s books, I’d heard lots of references to his book The Poet, so when I discovered it was next in line for me to read, I was looking forward to seeing what it was all about. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I didn’t find it quite as good as the praise lead me to expect it to be.
The book introduces us to Jack McEvoy, a reporter in Denver, Colorado. He’s been a crime reporter for years, but his world is rocked when he finds himself on the other side of the story after his twin brother, Sean, commits suicide. Sean was a cop, and he’d been obsessed with one case, a brutal murder that no one seemed able to solve.
Everyone has ruled it a suicide, even the cops. Jack doesn’t quite buy it, but it isn’t until he is researching a story on cop suicide for the paper that he makes a startling discovery. As the facts fall into place, Jack finds himself on an investigation that will take him all over the country and put him in contact with the FBI. But can he learn the truth?
I can certainly see why this book is so praised. The plot is ingenious. Even early on when we knew where the book was going, things were set up so well that I was riveted. The way the plot unfolds is absolutely wonderful. I did figure a couple things out early, but it didn’t dampen my enjoyment as I wanted to learn if I was right and how Jack would piece things together.
This book is now 20 years old. Maybe that is part of my issue with the story, but I found any of the parts of the story where the characters were trying to profile the villain to be very cliché. Maybe if I had first read it when it came out, I would find it fascinating. But if you have read or watched any profile heavy mystery, you know where things are going. Likewise, the scenes written from the point of view of the killer are equally predictable and slow things down.
On the other hand, the characters were all strong. This is the first time that Michael Connelly had written about any of them, but by the end of the book, we’ve gotten to know all the major characters well. Even the minor characters were strong for the page time they had.
I listened to the audio version narrated by Buck Schirner. This is the first time I’ve heard a book he’s narrated, and he did great. My only complaint here was the occasional time when they tried to add an effect to the story; it always added too much in my opinion. If you are doing an audio book, just narrate the story, don’t add digital menace or an echo to the voice.
It goes without saying since we are dealing with a serial killer that this is definitely darker than my normal cozy stories, and it has the language, sex, and violence you’d expect. Be prepared for that before you pick up this book.
Even though I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would, I still enjoyed The Poet. It’s easy to see why some consider this a high point of Michael Connelly’s career.
This review is part of this week's Friday's Forgotten Books.