I read "The Poet" and didn't know it.
For some reason, Michael Connelly's first non-Harry Bosch novel, while a favorite with fans, did not stick in my head over the years. If you also have forgotten it — or never have read it — and want to have any surprises reading "The Poet" in the near future, you'll want to put off Connelly's latest, "The Narrows." In fact, if that's the case, you should only read the next five paragraphs of this review.
"The Narrows" continues Connelly's perfect record of excellent thrillers, now standing at 13 for 13. But if you haven't been lucky enough to read one yet, "The Narrows" is hardly the place to start.
In fact, Connelly's series books are much better read in order, as each has a killer twist that the next book gives away. In "A Darkness More Than Light," three Bosch novels ago, Connelly brought together his two main heroes, Bosch and retired FBI profiler Terry McCaleb.
While most of the other books build on each other, "The Narrows" is like a Connelly character reunion.
This is so complete that Connelly even includes Clint Eastwood's movie adaptation of "Blood Work" by having characters — particularly Buddy Lockridge, played by Jeff Daniels in the movie, as a bit of a heavy — grousing about how they were treated in the film. Connelly's hook is that the movie was based on a best-selling, nonfiction book.
More importantly for faithful readers, "The Narrows" continues plots and themes from all the Bosch and McCaleb books and brings back FBI agent Rachael Walling from "The Poet" — to which "The Narrows" is most directly a sequel.
Bosch still is working as a private detective but is increasingly dissatisfied and considers returning to the LAPD, which is trying to hire back some of the talent it lost to retirement. When McCaleb's widow calls with suspicions that her husband's death may not have been due to natural causes, he knows he has at least one more case he must do on his own.
Meanwhile, the FBI is in crisis mode. (Warning: Plot spoilers from earlier books ahead.) The serial killer known as "the Poet" has resurfaced. A former high-ranking FBI profiler, the Poet was the FBI's biggest scandal and now gleefully is rubbing the image-obsessed agency's nose in his handiwork, taunting them with his ability to stay one step ahead.
Because of the gravitas, authenticity and moral weight that Connelly brings to his work, it's sometimes easy to forget that he is one of the most fiendishly clever plotters in the business.
Readers can be cruising along, caught up in Harry's problems with trying to see the daughter his ex-wife hid from him with beautiful lines like, "It's amazing to hold everything you care about in the world in one arm," when BAM! Something wicked comes, hard, fast and from an unexpected direction.
Connelly is the best mystery writer working today. "The Narrows" is up to his usual standards, with a rip-roaring climax along a flooded, raging Los Angeles River that ranks with his best. This reunion with old friends —and enemies — is enormously effective, and it's always enjoyable to watch Bosch battle bureaucrats, which the FBI has in spades.
And, for a dead guy, Terry McCaleb is quite a presence in "The Narrows," with Bosch using the notes he left behind to pursue the investigation and thinking of his old friend as his current "silent partner."
Despite my earlier disclaimers, "The Narrows" is a fine read that can be enjoyed whether or not you've read the other books. It's not like picking up "The Two Towers" without reading "The Fellowship of the Ring," for instance. The only thing you will spoil is your surprise at developments in earlier books, which are half the fun.
Since Connelly has done such a masterful job of building this tapestry of intrigue, it seems a shame if you don't enjoy it in the order in which the plots were woven.