Jan 09, 10
Read in December, 2009
MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS.
I read "Scarecrow" before I read this. "The Poet" marks the debut of reporter Jack McEvoy (spell? correct 1st name?) while "Scarecrow" is actually the second novel centered on McEvoy.
Both are great.
"The Poet" is a a murder mystery as well as the true-crime book, mentioned by title in "Scarecrow," that McEvoy wrote supposedly wrote about the murder mystery after it was over.
(I love the way Connelly's characters intersect over many novels, sometimes as background characters, sometimes as protagonist. He's also good at correlating new events in one book as historical events in later books. i.e., His fictional universe is very detailed and cohesive.)
In this, Colorado-based McEvoy is smarter than local police and FBI in figuring out not only that his identical twin bro, did not commit suicide, but was murdered in a way to appear like suicide.
The reporter also figures out -- and convinces the FBI -- that there's a serial killer out there who is selecting cops who have grown emotionally attached to one of their unsolved cases, which always involves the sick murder of someone who's either a child or works with children. In effect, there are 2 tracks of murders: an original death followed by the faux cop suicide.
McEvoy goes on to learn there's a dual set of murderers, too: One is a now-grown victim of sexual molestation by a cop; the other is an outwardly well-adjusted FBI supervisor whose FBI-professional dad had actually warped him in childhood with unreasonable demands.
The FBI sicko piggybacks on the other crimes to murder his cop victims, always staging the scene as a suicide. He loves the chase, in which he has the upper hand, because he is supervising the investigation into himself -- though the others don't initially know it.
McEvoy eventually sniffs out both the dual crimes and dual murderers, with the interesting help of a female FBI agent, Rachel, who becomes his love interest (off and on, through several novels -- and sometimes she's somebody else's love interest!)
Thrilling book; never formulaic.
Whenever McEvoy seems to have created a formulaic plot event or character -- it's ultimately only "formula" in the sense that a faithful reader starts waiting for the surprise whereby he/she will learn it wasn't a formulaic event or character after all.
To cite an example of this formula-bashing skill, the author first sets up McEvoy to know there's a murderer in the FBI, but he wrongly suspects Rachel -- and there's a whole series of facts to actually support that mistaken theory. But at the novel's cliff-hanging very end, the reporter corrects the misperception, to recognize the true FBI culprit.