Book Review: “The Poet,” by Michael Connelly

A child is gruesomely murdered; occasionally a young adult. The cop assigned to investigate is frustrated by dead ends and eventually commits suicide. A message is left at the scene of the suicide: a quote from an Edgar Allan Poe verse, written in the dead cop’s own hand. A short time later in another city it happens again: A murdered kid, a suicide cop, a quote from Poe.

These are the clues, but there are no answers.

Journalist Jack McEvoy writes about death. His twin brother, Sean, a homicide detective, investigates them. Now Sean is dead and his death is ruled a suicide. Jack doesn’t believe his brother would kill himself. Of course not. Who wants to believe their loved one is capable of taking his own life?

As the evidence mounts, Jack resigns himself to the truth of his brother’s death. The inability to solve the hideous murder of a young woman had haunted Sean. He had been seeing a therapist. Jack still doesn’t quite believe it, but maybe there was a side to Sean he didn’t know.

As the crime beat reporter for The Rocky Mountain Press, Jack decides to write a feature about cop suicides. Perhaps he can ease his mind by understanding what drives cops like Sean to suicide. The more reaserch he does, the more he understands: The suicides were not suicides at all.

He goes straight to the FBI with his evidence: He has proof that the suicides were murder and he’s not going to share what he knows unless the Feds let him in on the investigation. This is the story of a lifetime and Jack McEvoy wants the exclusive.

As they investigate the “suicides” and the related murder cases, questions emerge. How many murderers are there? One who kills both the child and the cop? Or are there two unrelated murderers and two unrelated crimes? Jack thinks there’s too much of a coincidence for them to be unrelated.

With the reluctant help of the FBI agents, Jack soons believes he’s found a viable suspect. But when the suspect confesses to the child murders, the case for only one perpetrator starts to unravel and Jack begins to suspect the worst from someone he thought he could trust.

This is one of Connelly’s earlier novels, originally published in 1996 and reissued in 2004. Some readers found it chilling–even frightening–but, although I scare easily, I can’t agree. What The Poet is, is a great ride, with a very surprising ending: Just when you think you know “who-dun-it,” you don’t. And that’s the kind of mystery I love.

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