Book Review: Michael Connelly’s The Poet

Posted January 20, 2012 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Michael Connelly’s The Poet

The Poet


Michael Connelly

crime mystery that was published by Grand Central Publishing on July 1, 2002 and has 510 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

First in the Jack McEvoy crime mystery series revolving around a murder journalist.

In 1997, The Poet, won the Anthony Award for Best Novel, the Dilys Award, and the Nero Award; in 1996, it was nominated for the Hammett Prize.

My Take

Whoa…! This was another of those that are difficult to put down. The one lesson anyone should take from this is never walk onto a crime scene with a preconception.

Connelly tosses in a few metaphors that he doesn’t take anywhere. It seems as though they’re there simply to carry through on the poetic quality as they don’t seem to relate to anything else. Mostly it relates to Sean dying by the lake where his sister drowned; the other seems an attempt to convey the madness of the killer.

It felt odd to be reading this story and there were no cellphones, digital cameras were just being talked about, and personal computers required codes and prompts — no WYSIWIG!! No websites!!

Warren’s betrayal seems pretty nasty, especially when Jack tries so hard to keep the faith. I do feel as though Warren was planning it almost from the start since Connelly makes such a point of mentioning his regret and the use of Jack’s handwritten notes. When you think about it, all the signs pointing to Rachel but the clincher is that hallway encounter and Gordon’s a.m. chat in the car that sends Jack off in that direction. Minor details that have such an impact. Of course, Rachel’s behavior certainly contributes to the impressions.

What in god’s name was McEvoy thinking!??! Doesn’t he know this isn’t a game??

And then there was that twist within a twist of an ending…oh, man…

The Story

Being told that your twin brother committed suicide is enough to send anyone for a loop. As a writer, Jack McEvoy needs to write about the why of Sean’s suicide so he can come to grips with it. With the reality that his brother felt there was nothing left but to stick a gun in his mouth. It’s that exploration that rips that closed case wide open.

When Jack connects Sean’s suicide note to that of another cop, another suicide, he begins to think he’s on to something. There is a connection to the lyrical notes, that they are all Homicide cops, all are leads on emotional cases involving children.

It takes cajoling and pushing, but Jack pushes his way into a Chicago homicide department, then an organization that tracks police suicides which brings the FBI in. Jack’s need to understand opens a number of cases throughout the country and forces the FBI to set up Task Force Poet.

The FBI is between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, they can refuse to share what they know with Jack. On the other hand, Jack has more than enough information to print.

The Characters

Jack McEvoy is a murder beat reporter with the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. He writes about murder cases that digs deep into the individual and the backgrounds of those involved. Riley McEvoy is Sean’s widow and a missed love of Jack’s. Greg Glenn is Jack’s city editor. Laurie Prine runs the paper’s library and does a lot of research for Jack.

Special Agent Rachel Walling is FBI with Behavior Science Services (BSS) and a fairly cold, heartless bitch who is the lead on the task force; I can’t tell if she’s using Jack or falling for him. Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Robert Backus, Jr. is Rachel’s boss; Special Agent Gordon Thorson is her ex-husband in Critical Incident Response, generally acknowledged as an asshole; Brasilia “Brass” Doran is victim coordinator/profiling; Bradley “Brad” Hazelton; and, Chuck “Smitty” Smith.

Detectives Harold “Wex” Wexler and Ray “Big Dog” St. Louis worked under Sean McEvoy in CAPS in the Denver PD. Detectives Constance Delpy and Ron Sweetzer with the Exploited Child Unit in Santa Monica, California are lucky enough to take Gladden in which attracts police and FBI attention, unlucky enough that the charges aren’t enough to hold him. Detective John Brooks was caught up in the murder of a 12-year-old boy when he committed suicide over it; his partner, Detective Lawrence Washington never believed it. Former Detective Daniel Bledsoe was John McCafferty‘s partner who, unfortunately, got caught rearranging his suicide scene. Detectives Clifford Beltran, Garland Petry, and Morris Kotite were all suicides from Florida to Texas to Albuquerque. They thought.

FBI agents in Phoenix, Mize and Matuzak get shut out of Detective Willliam Orsulak‘s homicide. His buddies on the force caught it because there were just too many questions to look like a suicide.

William Gladden is a convicted pedophile whose conviction got overturned. Connelly provides an interesting insight into the mind of such a man and the excuses he uses to justify what he does. Arthur Krasner is a lawyer mentioned on the pedophiliac network bulletin board. Horace Gomble seems to be a partner of sorts. Even if he is still in prison.

Michael Warren is public affairs at the Law Enforcement Foundation which operates the database which tracks the suicides of policemen; a former journalist, he betrays Jack. Dr. Nathan Ford is the director more terrified of losing his grants than of helping McEvoy. Oline Fredrick is the researcher handling the database. Evangeline Crowder is a motel maid in the wrong place. Darlene Kugel is another woman who didn’t think. Olin Coombs owns the camera store in L.A.

The Cover and Title

The cover is divided into three horizontal strips. The top is a sharp-edged black while the bottom is also black but fades up into a red hazed city skyline at night with a black raven riding the currents.

The title is the perp, The Poet, the project name used by the FBI.