Friday, September 09, 2011

A Literate Thriller

The Poet (Jack McEvoy, #1)
The Poet by Michael Connelly

While like a ghastly rapid river,
Through the pale door
A hideous throng rush out forever
And laugh--but smile no more.
-  Edgar Allan Poe, The Fall of the House of Usher

I had previously read and enjoyed novels in the "Harry Bosch" detective series by Michael Connelly but I was not prepared for the intensity of suspense that he delivers in this thriller. The protagonist is Jack McEvoy, a newspaper reporter, who is introduced with these opening lines: "Death is my beat. I make my living from it. I forge my professional reputation on it. . ."
With these words the story moves into what seems like hyper drive as the reader is presented with the reporter's single-minded pursuit of the serial killer who murdered his twin. Even his buddies in the Denver PD thought Sean McEvoy's shooting in the backseat of his car looked like a classic cop suicide, right down to the motive: his despondency over his failure to clear the murder of a University of Denver student. But as Sean's twin brother, Jack, of the Rocky Mountain News, notices tiny clues that marked Sean's death as murder, his suspicions about the dying message Sean scrawled inside his fogged windshield--``Out of space. Out of time''--alert him to a series of eerily similar killings stretching from Sarasota to Albuquerque.
The twist and turns are handled so smoothly that even when you guess one of the plot twists there are two more lying in wait that you did not see coming. Connelly writes with a lucid style that provides just enough detail to demonstrate his knowledge of the territory without slowing the plot action. For example, there are scenes set in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago that is my back yard and the details are all accurate. Scenes like that made me believe he did the same for Baltimore and Phoenix when those cities become the scene of the action. In Jack McEvoy, the reporter, he has created not only a smart detective but also a very human being -- one that is easy to identify with. The result of this with the controlled suspense makes this one thriller that I did had no difficulty finishing. An added treat are the literary connections that at least partially define the killer and help McEvoy in his pursuit. This is an exceptionally well written novel about a unique set of murders that are solved by an reporter born with a detective gene.

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