This is the year of thrillers, it seems. Last year, I read lots of young adult and fantasy, but this is the year of thrillers, and here is one more that I am reviewing for you guys.
I spent last night wide awake compulsively turning the last 100 odd pages of The Poet by Michael Connelly, and I can’t say enough good things about how well the book made that lack of sleep all worthwhile.
The book starts off with the following sentence:
Death is my beat. I forge my professional reputation from it. I treat it with the passion and precision of an undertaker – somber and sympathetic about it when I am with bereaved, a skilled craftsman with it when I’m alone. I’ve always thought the secret of death was to keep it at arm’s length. That’s the rule. Don’t let it breathe in your face.
The above sentence is how professional crime reporter Jake McEvoy introduces himself and his profession – a crime reporter.
He finds himself at odds with the above philosophy when his twin brother Homicide Detective Sean McEvoy is found ostensibly to have committed suicide. Although initially, Jake believes this version of events, while writing an article on police suicides for his newspaper, he stumbles across startling evidence that his brother might have been murdered, and that there might be a serial killer operating successfully across the country.
He goes to the FBI with this story, and soon a nationwide manhunt begins for a serial killer dubbed as the Poet. He is called the Poet because of his habit of leaving behind snippets of Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry as the dead cop’s supposed suicide note.
The rest of the story moves quickly at breakneck pace, finally ending in a thrilling climax.
I am a big Michael Connelly fan and am completely surprised that I had not read this early novel written by him – set in the mid 90s. It’s a shame really that I have waited this long to read this one. The reason being that many other thriller writers seem to have derived considerable inspiration from certain aspects of this story. And having read all these derivative novels, The Poet did not have as much impact on me as it could have had if I had been somewhat less exposed.
That said, he is easily one of the masters in this genre. And in spite of the datedness of this book (sections of the book describe digital cameras as a completely new technology), I still enjoyed and relished every bit of it.
One reason being the amazing way Poe’s poetry has been integrated into this book. I love Poe’s writing so when I recognized snippets of Poe’s For Annie as part of a suicide note, I was sold –
And the fever called “Living”
Is conquered at last.
How chilling to read that one liner as a suicide note!
Another reason why I like this book is the characterization of the Poet. This man is the stuff of nightmares, literally a monster walking amongst us preying on the unwary. Although, he is completely real, there is an almost other-wordly aura about the man, and his ability to commit murders and escape notice. Jake after a brutal final encounter with the Poet talks about looking into his eyes, which were a pool of darkness with the fires of pure-evil…something like that…I can’t remember exactly the way it was written, but when read at 3:00 in AM, it definitely sent shivers up my spine.
All raves aside, I don’t think this book is for everyone. People who do not like gruesome murders should not be reading this. In addition, the many insights into the killer’s mind are extremely disturbing especially the paedophile-related details. We all know that these people exist, but reading a book where the killer’s sick needs are openly discussed was very disturbing in the least.
It really made me wonder how safe we and our kids are…we presume our playgrounds and schools are safe, but could there be people out there looking on from outside wondering how/when to take advantage. I know that I will be much more alert than I currently am with regard to the safety and security of the snubnose.
That said…I loved this book
Note: I am including this as the first book in the Orbis Terrarum reading challenge (USA).