Michael Connelly’s new book “Fair Warning” brings back reporter Jack McEvoy and FBI agent Rachel Walling, so this is an appropriate time to look back at “The Poet,” where readers first meet these characters. “The Poet,” Connelly’s fifth book, was published in 1996 and won both the Anthony Award and the Dilys Award.
The story is told as a first person narrative by McEvoy who is pulled into the story when his twin brother, a police officer, commits suicide. In an alternate voice, readers learn about pedophile William Gladden. Rachael Walling FBI Behavioral Science specialist leads the investigation. The main characters are believable and talented, yet realistically flawed. The “bad guy,” called “The Poet” by the FBI due to Edgar Allen Poe references left at crime scenes, is truly despicable and evil; a character whom readers find even more appalling when the truth is revealed. The pursuit is purposeful and focused but not without misdirection and miscalculations. Technology has changed significantly since “The Poet” was published, and while this dates some of the investigative strategies, the basic story is absorbing. Readers easily overlook dial-up modems and phone landlines as the characters come to life on the pages. The ending is both startling and disturbing.
The Poet also makes an appearance in a sequel, “The Narrows;” this time with Harry Bosch; perhaps an overall better book, in fact one of my favorites. McEvoy and Walling are also featured in “The Scarecrow,” another better and more compelling book. Both Walling and McEvoy make appearances in subsequent Connelly books.
“The Poet” is an interesting study of diverse personalities and complex characters. It is great book, and reading it again highlighted the increasingly more complex characters Connelly has brought to the pages of books. It makes me appreciate the skilled storyteller that Michael Connelly has always been. My copy of “Fair Warning” is on order.