The Poet, ***

by MICHAEL CONNELLY

The verdict is in: The Poet is not poetry, but it is surprising.

Not a day after I went outside to run in short sleeves, this happened. So apparently spring is having second thoughts, and we've been snowed in for the weekend. On the bright side, it left plenty of time to finish The Poet.

I took a much longer time than I usually do to finish The Poet, but I’m glad I did. It was reasonably well-written. The prose was pretty easy reading and didn’t strive for anything really beautiful or — shall I say it— poetic, but then that’s not the point of a thriller, is it? I ask this honestly because my experience with the genre (as I’ve said before) is fairly limited.

The story is told from the point of view of Jack McEvoy, a Denver reporter with a tinge of cynicism, as he tries to find the truth about his brother’s murder. With the help (and hindrance) of the FBI, and notably Rachel Walling, a young agent who’s unashamed of playing the gender card to get a cushy spot with the G. Walling and McEvoy develop a rocky relationship as they go after the Poet, the mysterious killer who has travelled the country killing homicide cops.

There were a few things that bothered me about the book:

1) Jack’s instincts seem to be uncannily on-target, and though he is rather modest about this, his pleas for the agents (and others) to listen to his brilliant ideas come off a tad cliché. However, Jack does have his embarrassing moments, and this saves him from feeling like a character I’ve read before, so kudos to Connelly for this.

2) Why does there always have to be some trusty female sidekick? Rachel Walling is, at least, confident and smart, but she is also stupid enough to fall into bed with McEvoy (and in doing so, risk her career). Connelly counterbalances this fairly well by allowing Walling to rescue McEvoy  more than once, but it would be nice to see her put sense before romantic (or really just sexual) attachment.

3) I still have my doubts about the ability to deliver an effective game-change moment in a book. Perhaps this is just me, but sometimes when I read moments that are clearly supposed to be tension-filled and action-packed, I find myself skimming through to figure out how the action falls out. This was the case at many moments during The Poet.

However, I did find that Connelly is good at building general suspense (as I admitted before) and intrigue. I had many guesses about the identity of the Poet, but the answer came as a surprise to me. Connelly also avoided the ever-disgusting Angels & Demons ending (“You’ve never been to bed with a yoga master, have you?”).

Connelly strikes me as a good choice for an airport read: it’s quick and headache-free, engaging, and long enough to last you an international flight. But it won’t be entering our high school English curriculum anytime soon.

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